Gala Gone Bad.

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Post  Naitachel on Sun Jan 01, 2012 4:38 am

The night was cool but not terribly so, and the chauffer pulled the pristine black limo up to the front of the skyscraper, right to the main entrance. Neatly dressed, he hopped out and held open the door to the back of his vehicle, and flashed the doorman a smile. The doorman chuckled, and shrugged. Oh, they knew their bosses well.

Soraya glanced at herself in the mirror one last time before she decided she was presentable. Besides, what was done was done, whether or not the others liked it. She stowed away the last of her rarely-used makeup and made her way toward the lobby where the others were likely already assembled. Truly, the vintage Chanel couture dress of deep blue with an overlay of shimmering black lace fit her perfectly, and matched her own deep blue eyes perfectly. She wore pearl pendant earrings and a clutch, having minimized her accessorizing to allow the dress itself to shine. The only thing that might take the group aback was her previously undisclosed new haircut that left her hair much shorter - shoulder-length, to be exact. A drastic change from her previous length, though she had to admit that her curls seemed to have more life now, which she liked.

Naitachel tapped one of his crutches and eyed it a bit suspiciously. The rubber ends were beginning to wear. With a sigh, he straightened up and settled both under one arm, giving himself a last once-over to make certain all pale feathers were hidden beneath the Renaissance-style cross between a robe and a cape that he wore. It wasn't so far off from his old robes, but he didn't dare wear those to this sort of event--and in any case, he wasn't about to open his wings during any of this. Beneath he wore a tuxedo-style suit, complete with tails (ironically), sans tie--actually open at the throat. His "shoes" were modified for his odd feet by a family friend, simply resembling odd boots.

Radu stood waiting patiently in his carefully tailored classic tuxedo, glancing yet again at his watch.

Vlad and Mircea paced in the foyer, waiting for Min and the ladies to join them so they could go.

Bracing herself for her husband's reaction to her hair, Soraya emerged into the foyer, though she stopped once she saw him, standing stock-still as she cleared her throat to gain his attention.

Naitachel glanced up from examining his crutches when Soraya joined them, and blinked, surprised. He hadn't realized she had it cut that short, but then, he hadn't seen her since her visit to the salon today. He opened his mouth, then shut it again, glancing toward Vlad curiously.

Vlad's eyes went wide at the sight of the beauty that was his wife. Then he noticed it. "Your hair?" he asked, his brows knitting together.

"Like it?" Soraya asked, smiling as she ran her fingers through it. <He does not like it... I was afraid of this,> she sighed inwardly at Naitachel.

<Surprise does not mean he does not like it,> Nait reassured. <It is merely different. You still look lovely. Now if you tried dying it green and wearing a Mohawk, then I think you might scare him, indeed.>

"It's..." Vlad stopped, trying to find a suitable adjective. "Different... but good, it's good, just... yeah... different."

Radu studiously averted his gaze, thinking it more prudent to avoid comment.

The Seraph arched a brow at his mate. <You do not like it? Or do you merely dislike change?>

<If she is comfortable wearing it so, I've no reason to dislike it,> Radu answered with a shrug, still not looking up.

<Green? Hm, good advice for whenever I return to the salon,> she answered Naitachel wryly. <I will keep it under consideration.> "Different," Soraya sighed and nodded. "The tactful way of saying you do not care for it," she answered with a shrug. "Well, shall we, then?" she suggested, hoping to shift attentions away from this, given her less than lukewarm reception.

<If you have it green at the Brightflights facilities, I suspect the children would consider you "cool",> Nait told Soraya, amused.

<Well, at least then someone would like it,> she answered Naitachel. <Or, at least, someone other than you. Thank you.>

Jina flitted down the stairs in a charcoal grey satin gown. "Sorry... sorry... I lost my gloss..."

Lisa followed soon after and rolled her eyes theatrically, a scene Jina would miss given the fact that she led.

"I told you it was in the purse you used last week," Soraya teased.

"I looked there," Jina protested.

Naitachel chuckled quietly. "Still borrowing each other's make-up?"

"After a fashion," Jina agreed.

"She's stealing mine, if that's what you mean, Nait," Lisa said, alighting onto the main floor in her own satin red dress.

"Save for the lip gloss, in which case, she has 'borrowed' mine yet again," Jina replied.

Shaking his head, Naitachel chuckled. "We might well argue this for the next millennia? I fear we would miss this event if we do, however."

"She actually stole my lip gloss then tried to claim it as hers," Lisa stage-whispered to Naitachel. "Whoa," Lisa said, stopping in her tracks. "Soraya, your hair!"

Naitachel fought the urge to roll his eyes at Lisa. "As I said, you two have debated such issues... how long?"

Defeated, Soraya merely tucked one of her locks behind her ear and shrugged, then walked toward the door.

"I like it," Jina said, catching up quickly to finger the short flame red locks. "Very nice."

"Thank you," Soraya told Jina, glad at least someone liked it. "You look amazing yourself."

"Thank you," Jina smiled. "And, so you know, I fully intend to borrow that dress later."

"It is vintage Chanel. I will require something of equal quality in exchange," she answered as she resumed her walk toward the door. "Or perhaps you could simply work on convincing your brother that short hair is not so terrible," she suggested. She wasn't about to suggest the same of convincing Radu.

"I'll do my best," Jina agreed easily.

Naitachel unobtrusively elbowed Radu. <Is change so terrible?>

<It is... a change.> Radu glanced at Soraya again and sighed. <She looks so young that way...>

Admittedly, Soraya was disappointed. She had hoped somehow Vlad would find the change refreshing, something new and unexpected. Apparently that wasn't the case. "Well? Are you all remaining here the rest of the evening, then?" she asked once she reached the threshold.

Min rushed out at last, bedecked in classic Armani. "Sorry... sorry... let's go."

The Seraph shook his head and smiled, using a crutch to prod his mate towards the door. <You need not fear Vlad "robbing the cradle"... Not after all this time,> he laughed teasingly.

<Is it really so bad as to have induced you to simply stand there all evening?> Soraya asked Vlad, eyebrow raised.

Vlad offered his arm, laughing. "No, beloved, it isn't bad at all. I just... I was unprepared for the change. Pray forgive me."

"Well, not bad at all is better than I hate it, so I will take that as a compliment," Soraya answered, accepting his arm. "Naitachel, you really should get a move on. It would not do to be late to the charity ball for your own charity."

"Me?" Nait asked incredulously, pausing mid-poke with one of his crutches. He glanced at Radu as if wondering if Soraya had lost it, or maybe he himself was losing it. Snorting, he gestured with it at the door. "By all means--let us go, then."

Radu took Naitachel's arm and led him to the car, nodding to the drivers as they filled the limousines.


Soraya bent into the limousine, trying to do so at least halfway gracefully. "And we thought carriages were awkward," she said as she slid across the seat.

The Seraph lounged on one of the side-seats of the limo, tail trailing across it and peeking out from beneath his robe-cape. "They still are," he sighed. "I am very glad to own a motorbike..."

"Yes, and hopefully you can keep that motorbike, if you manage to avoid any more speeding tickets," Soraya teased.

"I shall," Nait stated glumly. "I have taken to flying more than driving of late. And yes, I am taking the class as I was told to..."

Michael filed in after Min, grinning from ear to ear. Tommen had elected to stay behind and watch Brianna.

"Isn't Matty coming?" Min asked, though somehow he knew the answer.

Michael merely shrugged and shook his head, the look on his face suggesting he was less than thrilled with that news himself. "He decided to stay."

"Brianna offered to keep him company," Nait supplied. From what the little girl had emitted emotionally, however, he was reassured that she was going to keep mental tabs on Matty.

Soraya sighed helplessly, wishing she could offer some way of helping Matthias herself. She hated that that burden had fallen on her young daughter. But she knew Brianna was uniquely qualified to see Matthias through this. Hopefully, for both their sakes, this would be a short one.

With a sigh, Nait reached over to tap the partition-glass, and the car started off...

Min frowned but said nothing more.


After a bit, the car lurched and started making odd sounds...

Soraya, who had been placidly watching the scenery go by, was suddenly startled back to attention. "What is it?" she asked no one in particular.

Nait's fingers gripped the seat with white knuckles. "I do not know, but I do not think it is a good sign."

Radu exchanged a glance with Vlad as the car pulled over. Both got out quickly to inspect whatever the damage was.

Naitachel stayed within, reluctant to move at this time. He had no wish to emerge only to re-enter. Wings and a tail were so unwieldy within such vehicles.

Never having been one to stay behind, Soraya scooted her own way out of the limousine, placing a hand on Michael's shoulder in an indication that he should remain. "Is it the car?" she asked as she located Radu and Vlad.

The chauffer frowned at the engine and used his cap to wave away some smoke from the engine. "Ain' lookin' too good," he muttered. "See that there belt? Durn thing's frayed ta breakin'... An' somethin's busted--see those bits o' plastic?"

Radu moved close to the car, peering over the chauffer's shoulder.

A very tall youth in an oversized camouflage jacket walked up to the car, a quizzical look in his eyes. The tiny blonde boy beside him asked curiously, "Do you need a hand?"

"It seems we do," Soraya answered for them. "Do you know much about cars?"

"He knows EVERYTHING about cars," the blonde boy said proudly.

"Ah, well, we are lucky, then," Soraya smiled. The boy's enthusiasm felt genuine, and she had no reason to believe they were trying to deceive them. "I am Soraya," she offered, hoping they would give her their names as well.

The chauffer shrugged, and gestured at their limo. "More 'n a hand, boy. Got a shop here 'bouts?"

The tall boy didn't answer, but reached around the chauffer with a pen light in his hand, inspecting things carefully.

"A shop?" Soraya asked as the chauffeur interrupted. "That bad?"

The chauffer shrugged. "Got a belt goin', an' somethin's in just pieces 'ere. Might be somethin' important, from how she coughs." Not minding additional ideas, the chauffer let the boy peer in, and offered Radu a helpless shrug. "Kin call a towin' company, or take chancin' we git there a'fore she busts fully."

The boy pushed dark curls from his eyes and reached around into his pocket for a multi-tool. He opened a metal cover and removed a large plastic container looking piece. He twisted and pulled at plastic moment, then replaced it. "Try it now."


Naitachel glanced at Michael, and sighed, then reached within his robe for his cell phone. "Best I let them know we have trouble."

Michael smiled wryly in return. "What, you mean you don't want to make a splash and fly in? Could be fun," he teased.

The Seraph snorted. "I do not know if they would faint or flee if I did such. Bad enough I show my wings at the Christmas Pageant, but at least there I have an excuse. They think me extremely odd as it is, and not all find that comfortable to handle."

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:49 am

"We're all of us extremely odd and somewhat uncomfortable to handle," Michael answered Naitachel. "At least you have an angelic aura about you."

Slipping his cell phone from his pocket, Nait carefully opened it and held it up with two fingers a bit away from himself. He had this thing with technology... It tended to fry around him with too close or frequent exposure, or just go haywire. "Hello...? Misses Grafton, we seem to be delayed... Yes... Car trouble, I fear..."

"All right... and thank you, Misses Grafton. Do send our apologies." Nait hung up--then frowned slightly, glancing towards the front of the car, curious. Two strangers, helping and one... shielded? Hard to tell, as it was hard to even find him...


Min moved into the driver's seat and cranked the key. Nothing.

The boy frowned, then took the plastic part out again and gutted it, taking a kerchief from his pocked and then and arranging it just so within it. Then he filed down the area within the seating for it with his tool, replaced it and nodded to the small blonde who said, "Okay... try it one more time."

Radu arched a brow at Soraya and Vlad as Min cranked the key again. This time, the engine purred perfectly.

Soraya crossed her arms and repressed a shiver against the night air. Her face lit up at the sudden signs of life from the engine. "Well, at least the trouble was rather easy to fix."

The chauffer blinked, then frowned. "Hell, kid. You performin' magic, or what?" Then he grinned broadly. "Think it might hold the night?"

The boy nodded. "You might want to take it to Chase's Auto tomorrow so he can fix it right, but it'll hold out tonight with no problem," the blonde boy answered for them.

The taller boy took off his jacket and offered it to Soraya, noting her shivering.

The boy's gesture took Soraya off-guard and she found herself staring at the jacket a few moments without moving. "Oh," she said, as she finally figured out his meaning. Not wanting to be rude, she glanced at Vlad, shrugged, and accepted the offering. "Thank you," she said quietly.

The taller boy simply nodded, stepping back as if not wanting to remain in physical reach of anyone too long.

Vlad glanced at Radu, his eyes narrowing curiously. <Did you try reading them?> he asked his uncle.

Radu nodded, almost relieved to note it hadn't just been him. The younger came through loud and clear, but the elder... it was as if he simply wasn't there.

The chauffer nodded, adjusting his cap a bit. "Yeah, I know 'em... Say, if you be needin' a ride, and it's alright with m'lord 'ere, 'kin drop you off after droppin' 'em off." He glanced at Radu for permission.

"Of course," Radu answered. "Please... join us."

The elder's eyes went wide, then narrowed. "Um... no thanks," the younger boy answered, stepping quickly to his brothers side. Besides, he thought. Where would you take us. The shop doesn't open until morning, and we don't have anywhere else.

Though he couldn't read the elder, the younger came through loud and clear, and his thoughts made Radu frown.

Soraya frowned, trying to puzzle these two out. "Are you quite certain?" she asked. She thought a moment longer, then glanced at Naitachel. <Something tells me these two could somehow benefit from your own charity's works.>

Nait mentally nodded his agreement with Soraya. <Perhaps he will accept for the younger's sake? Besides, it is cold for no coat...> The Seraph was concerned. Now neither boy had a jacket.

"At least let us pay you for your troubles," Vlad suggested, taking out his wallet. Ignoring the shake of the elder's head, he pressed several bills into the hands of the younger. "Thank you for your help," he said firmly.

"Thank you for the coat, as well," the redhead then said, removing it from her shoulders and passing it back in the boys' direction.

The boy held up his hands palms out as if to indicate she should keep it.

"It's a cold night," the younger one answered for him again. "He doesn't want you to get cold."

The older boy tapped the younger on the shoulder, nodding up the street as if to indicate they should move on.

The redhead's eyebrow shot up. "I will be fine once we get back inside the limousine, and I will hardly be cold once we get to our event. Please," she said, pressing the coat upon the younger boy much as Vlad had done with the money, "I should hate to think of him without the coat on a cold night."

The older boy seemed to consider that. Frowning, he gave the slightest of nods. Reaching out, he secured the coat around the smaller boy's shoulders.

"Thanks," The little blonde smiled.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:53 am

<Send them to the shelter?> Nait suggested to his mate. <Children like they are why it exists to begin with...>

<They are, but the tall one seems reluctant to accept our help,>
Radu sighed mentally.

<They seem anxious to move along. Speak up now or lose them,> Soraya advised. "Besides," she added belatedly, "I can always simply steal Vlad's coat," she confided quietly to the blonde boy with a wink.

Tentatively, Nait mentally touched at the elder's shields, and simply offered a picture... where the shelter was for runaway children.

The boy's eyes widened, then dropped to the ground in response to Nait, as the younger laughed at Soraya. "I always steal his. But he lets me, so it's okay." Glancing at the money in his hand, he considered aloud, "Maybe we'll get me another one. Then I just have to not leave it on the bus."

"Hm, indeed, I may have to wrestle Vlad's for his. That does pose more of a problem," Soraya laughed. "But yes, a coat may be a good purchase. Although... I wonder... If you like, I think I may have a few older ones my sons are no longer using."

The taller boy glanced at the youth, whose eyes widened at some unspoken message between them. He shook his head, frowning, then turned his attention back to Soraya. "You got kids our age?"

"Ah, heavens," Nait sighed, as close to cursing as he ever got. He touched lightly again, sending reassurance... <*Safety--shelter--food--hide there. Safe place.*>

"Older than you, actually," the redhead answered, looking to Naitachel for some help in reeling them in. He was usually the expert in this. "And a daughter who is younger, but her coats would not fit you either way. Here," she said, reaching for Vlad's pocket and digging through it before pulling out a small rectangular paper, "is a number where we can be reached, should you choose to take us up on it, if you need time to discuss it."

Vlad seemed to squirm a bit as Soraya dug around in his pockets.

The Chauffer eyed the kids with concern, but hung back, leaving it to his betters to argue with their rescuers. "I'm gonna git back in, then, but, hey, offer still stands, kids. M'lord ain' rescindin' it yet."

The older boy’s eyes dropped to study the darkened street a moment as he seemed to consider their offer. A safe warm place for Zack to sleep tonight would probably be a good thing. He didn't need to get caught out in the rain again, and you could only hang out in the Denny's for just so many nights before they got suspicious. The younger boy accepted the card gratefully, then almost dropped it when his brother did the unexpected and relented, gesturing for him to get into the car. "Really?" he asked. The older boy just nodded, his eyes still carefully averted.

"Wonderful!" Soraya smiled, clapping her hands. "Quickly. I am getting cold out here," she said, gesturing toward the back of the car.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:58 am

"Where're you goin?" the younger boy asked as he climbed in.

Naitachel curled up on the side-seat in the car to make more room for the newcomers, and reached to the floor to draw his crutches aside so as not to trip anyone up. "Good evening," he offered the boys cheerfully. "Thank you for your assistance..."

Radu nodded as the boys finally relented and got in, glancing at Naitachel. <Did you read anything from him?>

<A limited amount,> Nait answered. <His shields are tight, but he responds closely to the younger. He is much concerned for the younger who is... related somehow, perhaps? I can send a little through, however.>

"A gala, actually, as a fundraiser," Soraya answered the younger boy as she followed them into the now-more-closely-packed limousine. "Which way do you need to go?"

Golden eyes met Josh's blue ones in silent admission to being the one who mentally touched him.

The pale crystal blue eyes dropped quickly, though he gave the faintest of nods to indicate he'd understood that.

"We're actually, uh... sort of... you know... in between places right now," the younger admitted. "But there's a Denny's on Rosemont of you want to just dump us off there."

Soraya's eyes were full of worry as she glanced in Naitachel's direction. A Denny's? "Perhaps we can take you somewhere more suited... with a warm meal and a bed? No questions, no strings, and no money required?" she broached.

The Seraph exchanged looks with Soraya, and nodded. "There is a place that will do so, if you wish to try it... At least until something better appears?" He glanced at the older teen, adding, <Safe, meant to protect those who need to hide.>

The tall boy swallowed hard at that message. He was torn between their need to get Zack indoors and warm and their need to stay hidden. How far could he really trust these people?

"We don't do crowds very well," the blonde boy replied, though something in the way the elder had shifted, maximizing what little space there was to avoid even lightly touching anyone else in the car, it seemed clear that it was he, and not the blonde, with such boundaries. "Are there a lot of people there?"

That was clearly a question for Naitachel to answer, and Soraya gestured vaguely in his direction in deference.

"Not much more than at an apartment building. They offer dorms for those who need it. New space has been added recently..."

"Sounds great!" the younger answered, not giving the elder a chance to refuse.

"How about we leave you out in front?" Soraya suggested, "And you make the decision to go in or not. At worst, you have money there for a hotel, of which I believe there is one nearby, or a 24 hour cafe called Black Bear Diner." Merely looking at the tall boy told her volumes on his reluctance.

The elder nodded. The younger smiled brightly. "A bed would be good. And we should probably save the money. He started at Chase's today, but if we have to go it helps to..." The elder shot him a glance and suddenly the younger quietly. "I mean. Yeah. Thanks."

Radu sat quietly, attending carefully to both what was being said, and what wasn't.

"You both look like you could use a few good meals," Min suggested. "Let's get you there first. We're already late to the ball. What's a few more minutes going to hurt now?"

Feeling the elder teen's distrust, Nait held out a hand to him in open invitation. <If you want proof, I offer to drop my shields for you. To read as you will? I am a bit much to digest, however, like an old religious history book...> he offered with amusement. "In any case, it is a place you need not fear the dangers of the streets. Others there are in similar situations, so they merely ask for discretion."

The elder glanced at Nait quizzically, if briefly. He liked history books.

At the boy's nod, Soraya wasted no time for fear that they changed their minds. She tapped on the limousine window, waited for the driver's response, and quickly gave him instructions.

The Chauffer nodded, then drew the partition back up, and the car changed course.


<It seems we are going to be fashionably late despite our best efforts. All for a good cause, thankfully...> she sent to the group, then, <Where are you?> she asked Vlad, noting his silence in all of this.

<Disturbed,> Vlad answered honestly. <Reading the young one is like watching a tragic horror film through the eyes of a small child.> He glanced at the elder, then added to Soraya. <I can't read the other at all.>

Smiling gently at the older teen, Nait added, <I visit the shelter often. If you need anything, you might find me or Soraya there easily enough. The other children can give you an honest opinion of us all there, as well.> "I called ahead, so they know not to expect us on time at the Gala, regardless."

Min snorted. "Nobody's ever on time for these things unless they're serving the food or covering it in the tabloids. Don't worry about it."

Nait blanched at Min's words. "Heavens... I have truly forgotten..." he breathed in trepidation. "They will have cameras at it..."

Soraya's gaze lowered and she sighed quietly. <It amazes me what people will put mere children through,> she answered Vlad sadly. It was a good thing she had worn water-proof mascara. <It is not the first time I am thankful that Naitachel and Radu have founded this center.> "One assumes so," Soraya answered Naitachel gently, though she patted the seraph's arm reassuringly.

Seraph sighed, closing his eyes. "That well and truly... 'sucks'?" He tested the new word, not certain of it. Making a face, he opened his eyes and shifted a bit to get more comfortable. His tail was getting a cramp, and these seats were absolutely horrible for him.

The younger boy laughed heartily at that. "Why, don't you like pictures?"

<We can't just take them home as we used to. It is no longer fashionable to take in children off the street. Someone always demands proof of guardianship,> Vlad complained.

<Though in society at large I understand the need,> Soraya answered, <it certainly hinders certain efforts.>

Vlad nodded again. <I have to hope that some of what I saw there was distorted or imagined. No child should go through all of that.> He glanced at the elder again, wishing he could read him if only to confirm that.

The redhead glanced at Vlad and entwined her arm with his. <I hope so as well,> she agreed, knowing that the hope was more than likely a false one. <Well, at least we are doing something for them now.>

Vlad nodded then frowned when the older boy almost jumped out of the seat as Soraya's phone rang.

The boy's reaction was hardly lost on Soraya, though she delicately ignored it, releasing Vlad's arm and reaching into her clutch, confused. Who would be calling now? The number was not listed amongst her contacts. "Hello?" she answered.

<So you read that much...?> Nait inquired, catching wind of their conversation. <They have gone through much together, it seems... Poor things. At least the shelter can give them safety and fill immediate needs, though I am uncertain they will allow more than that. They are very independent-minded.> Nait gestured at his crutches. "You might guess as to why," he offered evasively to the younger boy, unable to lie.

"Did someone hurt you too?" the blonde boy asked, then gasped when he realized what he'd said. Quickly, he tried to cover it by saying, "I mean... what are those for?"

Golden eyes widened in surprise at the younger boy's initial question, but Nait supplied honestly, quietly, "All here have been hurt at some time or other..." His eyes flicked to Radu helplessly, as he could not answer about his crutches without getting caught.

The boy seemed to consider that carefully. "Yeah... I guess everyone has." He looked at the crutches again, and added quietly. "Our mom used those too."

The older boy not only cringed, but paled slightly at the mention of their mother. "Sorry," the younger mouthed at him. The elder only shrugged.

"They are a... necessary burden, at times," Nait told the younger boy gently. "I imagine she thought so, too..."

"Where is your mom?" Min prompted, trying hard not to notice the older boy’s reaction to the topic.

"Gone," the little blonde answered, examining his hands in his lap, his eyes suspiciously bright all at once. The elder laid a hand gently upon his shoulder for the briefest moment, but still avoided eye contact with anyone in the car, including him.

The Seraph leaned over to reach out a slender hand and gently pat the younger boy's own, to offer his own calming reassuring influence. "We are sorry for your loss..."

"It was a while ago," the child intoned dully, but seemed to calm, his grief ebbing again at the seraph's touch.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:00 am

Mircea growled into the newly acquired phone, "Where are you all at? Your car was only just behind ours and it's a media circus here. The girls don't mind, but I'd rather not face it without you lot."

<Did Mircea get a new phone recently?> Soraya asked Radu, grimacing at the intensity of her Uncle-in-law's voice. "Our limousine broke down," she explained. "We are back on the road now, but we have a... slight detour to make. We will be there as soon as possible," she sighed, knowing Mircea wasn't likely to take the excuse without argument.

Radu nodded. They all had company cell phones now.

"Detour? What detour?" Mircea demanded. "Won't it wait?"

Soraya couldn't suppress an eye-roll, then a wink at the blond boy. "No, Mircea, it will not," she answered firmly. "I am sorry to say it seems you may actually have to meet the circus head-on this once. Besides, think of the women you can meet and impress with your fame." She covered her mouth for fear of laughing at her own poor jest.

"I am not getting out of this car until you get here," Mircea warned. "I will have the driver take us right back home."

Nait glanced at Soraya and arched a brow in silent inquiry. <He is upset? You may tell him his underlings suggested... he try dating... so this is one way to begin, I am told--mingling at social functions?>

"You can always have your chauffeur drive around the block a few times before we arrive," Soraya suggested more sagely.

"Around the... are you joking?" Mircea demanded. "The vultures are lining the streets..."

Soraya sighed into the receiver. "I do not know what else to suggest, Mircea. This is not something that can wait, as we will explain later. Besides, would you really abandon your brother and his mate on this important night for them?" she asked, though she suddenly had to suppress the urge to laugh given Naitachel's jest. <I think such a suggestion might send him into an all-out tantrum,> she answered the seraph.

"We'll remain where we are for the moment. Just hurry," Mircea answered sullenly, then hung up without another word.

<A shame. I shall have to tell him their suggestion he begin dating when we arrive... Though they did suggest males...> Nait told them.

<What?> Soraya asked, unable to keep surprise from registering on her face at Naitachel's divulgence. <Oh, I am not so sure that is something to tell him, lest you want a scene at the event,> she said with an internal chuckle.

<It would save me from being the limelight?> Nait laughed to Soraya. <He has a right to know, however...>

<Yes, but to tell him in such a public place?>
she asked with a quick shrug. <It is your hide, whether the media focuses on his actions or your sudden demise.>

<I think I will run it past Radu as a possibility if we need something for distraction...>
Nait chuckled back.

<Always an option. It is wise to have a plan B in effect,> Soraya said, working to keep her features from revealing her amusement.

The car slowed as they approached a large building to the right.

With a groan and a shake of her head, the young woman returned her cellular telephone to its place in her clutch. "Cheerful as always," she announced, before cuing in to the fact that the conversation had taken a somewhat more serious tone. The limousine was, however, slowing. "We are here," she told them more gently.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:03 am

The elder boy glanced out the window then shifted nervously. It was a large place in an area of town he wasn't yet familiar with.

"Ah, here we are." Nait withdrew his hand, retreating stiffly back onto his seat. "I suggest asking for..." He paused to mentally "check" who was on duty, "Miss Maple. She bakes a rather amazing chocolate chip cookie, I am told, and can set you up for the night at least. And please tell the other young ones that 'PB' and the others send their regards."

They younger smiled. "It's HUGE," he breathed. "Do you think we'll get a room up high...? He don't eat cookies," the young one confided. "Do you think she'll let me have his and mine both?"

"I am sure she would," Soraya said to the younger one. "Do you want one of us to enter with you?" she offered, despite her earlier words of leaving them outside, just in case.

Nait shrugged his wings and smiled at the younger boy. "I am certain she might spare you more than just one, and perhaps she might find something he likes as well."

The little one snorted. "He don't eat anything sweet. He likes black coffee, though. Isn't that weird?" he laughed.

Golden eyes blinked, surprised. "Odd, but I know some others who also have such tastes," he mused, glancing at Radu quizzically.

Radu's eyes narrowed curiously, noting the boy's tall thin frame, pale skin and crystal blue eyes. <Min?> he asked, abruptly concerned.

<Not mine!> Minhea answered defensively. <Not this time.>

Soraya gestured toward the building. "My offer to accompany you is open, if you like. Or we can leave you here, as promised," she smiled. "Which do you prefer?" Inwardly, she followed the conversation being had about the potential familial bonds of this child remarkably similar to their own.

"Come with us," the blonde boy answered, knowing they'd likely not go in if someone didn't accompany them.

The older boy sighed silently, rolling his eyes without looking up. Guess they really were staying here, at least for one night.

"Of course," Soraya said, shifting toward the door. One thing that certainly hindered movement was wearing a dress and high-heeled shoes. With a bit more struggling, she managed to open the door, then shuffled out, hoping she hadn't given anyone a, "show," as she did so.

Vlad shook his head slightly. He'd been faithful to Soraya, so the boy couldn't be his. Radu hadn't been with any but Naitachel. He glanced at Michael. <Well?> he asked his son.

<Well what?> Michael asked, before comprehension dawned. <What? No! My hair's not even that dark. I don't think my kids would ever look like him,> he said defensively. Not that this was a conversation he particularly cared to have with his parents.

Nait arched a brow at Radu and smiled mischievously. <Have you been up to adventures without me?> he teased. Glancing at Soraya, he asked reluctantly, <Would you like my presence as well?> It would shut off unwanted questions, but he was reluctant to struggle in and out of the car so much... plus he was tempted to just stay out at the shelter and mingle with children over big names in the city...

Radu shot Naitachel a startled look. Had he really just asked him that?

Tension seemed to even leave Soraya as Michael answered his father. <Your choice,> she told Naitachel. <I am sure I can handle them myself, however if you prefer to stay behind. They know me here.>

The Seraph took one look at Radu's expression and broke out into helpless laughter. <I had to ask!> he laughed. <The temptation was too great, if only to see your expression!>

A soft smile touched Radu's lips. He supposed he could understand that.

Vlad considered Michael's answer. It was true. He went wide eyed as it occurred to him who else's hair was that dark. <You don't think...> he began before shutting it down, the thought striking him as ludicrous. Mircea'd always carefully avoided any really intimate encounters as far as he knew.

Min nudged Michael and he asked, <You think your brother maybe played a little?>

Michael nearly choked on his own spit. "Tom?" He answered aloud before catching himself. <Are you insane? He still thinks so much as laying eyes on a pretty woman is a horrible infraction,> he sighed, not without sympathy. <A shame, really. He's got the looks that could get the women flocking, if he wasn't so morose all the time.>

With a sigh, Nait grabbed his crutches and shifted towards the door. Better to be safe than sorry and help field away unwanted questions from the two boys, lest they hide in worse conditions.

Soraya stepped away from the limousine doors to allow Naitachel room to maneuver.

The taller boy shifted again and exited quickly as he felt the pressure of their scrutiny.

The tiny blonde waved to all who remained behind. "Goodnight," he offered sweetly. "Thanks for the lift."

Soraya smiled and gestured toward the building. "This way, gentlemen," she said cheerfully.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:06 am

The Seraph had to practically jump to get out of the car, and fumbled for a minute with the crutches. He took a couple steps with them, clicking on the concrete, and paused to mentally "listen". Smiling, he followed Soraya and the boys. "I think the kitchen..." he suggested.

Soraya entered the security codes upon the doors and opened them. "Meant to keep unwanted guests out, not wanted ones in," she assured the boys quickly

The blonde boy followed her quickly, leaving his older brother no choice but to keep up or stay behind without him. He really wanted cookies and a warm bed tonight. He couldn't remember when he'd had them last and knew it'd be unlikely he'd have the chance at them again for a while. His stomach gave a loud and somewhat demanding grumble at the thought of them.

<I know you would not stray,> Nait assured his mate with an affectionate mental touch. <Never more than I would wish to.>

The scent of fresh bread filled the hall and seeped outside the building....

The elder balked at the entranceway. He'd been told that before about security, and it had taken him far too long to find a way out again. He looked at the younger boy almost pleadingly. The younger one, though, paid no attention as the enticing aroma of fresh baked bread reached him. The older boy’s breath seemed to catch in his throat, panic rising in him as he debated whether or not to step across the threshold.

Feeling the elder's alarm, Nait waved for him to pause with him by the code panel. "I will teach it to you now, if you like. That way you need not worry." <My own code, if you like?>

Soraya noted the boy hovering at the threshold. She closed the door quickly, then demonstrated how it opened without fanfare from the inside. "Better?" she asked, holding it open for him again.

The smallest pinhole in his shields appeared as images of electricity, drugs and "water therapy" complete with the sensation of drowning. He nodded, carefully avoiding their gaze as he examined the panel as the red-head opened and closed the door.

"It's okay," The younger boy said from inside, realizing only then that his brother hadn't followed him in. "Please..."

Reluctantly, the elder boy stepped inside at last.

<Truly skittish, poor thing,> Soraya noted to Naitachel as she directed the group toward the smell of bread. <I suppose we cannot blame them. I only wish we could have reached them sooner.>

Naitachel followed. <The current code is "swirlypink52",> he offered the boy quietly. To Soraya he confirmed quietly, <Not so much skittish as justifiably wary, from what I just caught. He was truly tortured at some facility before this...>

As if realizing the breach then, the pinhole seemed to close abruptly. The older boy nodded to indicate he'd caught Nait’s message.

"Hey, PB," a broad-shouldered youth with a bit of a swagger called out from a nearby room. "Who’s the fresh meat?"

The elder boy drew the younger closer to Nait, his jaw setting and his eyes narrowing at being so dubbed.

<Skittish... wary... either way, boys this young should not feel the need to be so.> Soraya grimaced. When one of the boys commented on their arrival, Soraya merely remained near the boys as a measure of comfort. The brief glimpses she had caught were gone just as quickly, as well.

Naitachel blushed slightly and drew to a halt. "Ah, our talented Mister Fox... They are considering staying briefly, if you do not mind treating them as you do other visitors? Maple is down the hall, I take it? You recall your own rather... battered arrival, I am certain, so please be kind."

"Ain't I always," Fox asked, his eyes working their way up and down the newcomers appraisingly. Truth was, Anthony Fox wasn't always kind. In fact, he'd a bit of a reputation as a bully, and usually looked for what buttons he could push and weaknesses he could exploit very quickly.

Nait cleared his throat meaningfully, eyes narrowing at Anthony. "Tony," he stated firmly, voice carrying a force that was not to be denied in his silent request.

"Relax, PB, I'll be 'kind'," he assured him, though he silently amended... kind of ... "Where'd they drag you two in from?"

Soraya remained firmly standing next to their new friends, her own eyes narrowing disapprovingly. "I suggest perhaps we give them a chance to get settled in," Soraya interceded. "Were you not doing something productive before we arrived?"

"Where we always find them," Nait announced, gesturing for the others to continue. "That bread smells wonderful."

The younger opened his mouth to answer, but shut it quickly as the elder slowly raised his gaze to meet Mr. Fox's. His eyes narrowed as if in challenge. He stance shifted to indicate that he wasn't going to be bullied, and neither was his brother.

Fox looked at the crystal blue eyes and balked. "Um... yeah... think I'll get back to that," he answered Soraya, frowning.

The younger boy all but ran then toward the smell of fresh baked bread, nearly colliding with the cook.

<Is that Maple baking? I hate to say it, but we should probably leave them in her capable hands, if it is. Mircea is probably about to explode as it is. Besides, you are scheduled to sing rather soon,> Soraya informed Naitachel.

Nait nodded, and watched the boys head off, sighing. "Yes, yes, I know," he stated softly for Soraya to hear, but reluctant to leave nonetheless.

"I know, Nait," Soraya said softly, "but we have done what we could for now. We can check on them in the morning," she promised.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:07 am

Maple looked like a typical grandmother stereotype, and was waving a potholder above the fresh bread. "Oh!" the matronly, large woman yelped as she was bumped. "Oh, my! More mice, I think?" she laughed. "I thought I've only two tucked away right now, but more are welcome!"

The older boy seemed more on guard after that, staying close beside the younger. One night, he promised himself. Just one. His eyes took in the room they entered carefully, making note of windows and doors, vents and other exits should they be needed in a hurry. His eyes lingered on the cooking knives and other potential weapons should they need to defend themselves. Only when he was sure they were in defensible position did he allow himself to relax even slightly.

"Sorry," the blonde boy laughed. "It smelled so good! Do you feed the mice bread?" he asked then, hopefully.

Maple nodded, and reached with the potholder to carefully shake loose one new loaf onto a plate to cool. "Well, that and butter and jam, or peanut butter... Speaking of peanut butter, did I hear PB's voice?"

"He's in the hall I think," he answered her question. "With the pretty red haired lady in the fancy dress. Got any coffee?" the little one asked. He nodded toward the tall, thin, dark haired boy. "He likes coffee."

Maple shook her head and gestured at the empty coffee pot with the potholder. "Not at this hour, sweetie. In the morning we'll have a fresh brew, along with the usual selection. I can't keep up with you little's if you have coffee this late!" She frowned slightly, and glanced down the hall. "He's in the hall--with Red? Oh, no, dear me no..." Taking up her apron, she moved to the door to yell, "PB, get your purty little ass off before those vultures come roaring down on us decent folk!"


Ariadne, a young, sallow looking girl, approached quickly, throwing her arms around Naitachel. "Hey, PB. Didn't know you was coming back tonight."

Nait gave the girl a one-armed hug so as not to tangle her in the crutches. "This is a bit of an unexpected detour, Miss Michaels. We had some new friends to bring in. Perhaps you might meet them tomorrow? You know how rough it is..."

The girl nodded. She remembered. "Do you need someone to show them around, or are they better left to the
mselves tonight?"

Nait nodded. "If you would, my dear. Soraya and I must head away..." He glanced at her apologetically.

"I'll take care of them," Ariadne assured them. "Have fun at the party thingy."

The Seraph winced at Maple's yell. "I am going, I am going!" He gestured with a crutch for Soraya to lead the way back.

Soraya's phone rang again.

"Good night, Maple," Soraya called with a wave as she made her way toward the exit.

With a wave, Nait started clicking back towards the door and their car...

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:09 am

Maple waved back and returned to the kitchen. "So, what would you boys like, other than coffee? The kitchen is still open, dearies..." And so Maple began to get them settled.

The tall boy just shook his head. Coffee was about all he was interested in right that moment.

"Bread with jam, and cookies?" the little one answered. "PB said you made cookies."

"Cookies, but maybe a good sandwich first?" Maple suggested. "I take requests..."

The elder turned slightly away, seemingly a bit green at the thought.

"Um... yeah, okay. A sandwich is good. ‘Cept he don't eat 'em," the younger answered the cook.

Maple peered at the elder boy worriedly. "Are you all right? If there's something else you need, tell me. You don't look so well. I don't want anyone coming down sick..."

"He don't like things to touch like that," the younger boy whispered. "Food and stuff. It grosses him a little. But he does like coffee," he added hopefully, figuring it couldn't hurt to try again. "A lot."

Maple nodded, used to peculiar desires of her "charges". "Well, then, in that case, plain fresh bread is good by itself, so why don't you do the honors and start the loaf off? I need a taste-tester, anyway," she told the older boy.

The older boy looked surprised, but nodded slowly, though there was something akin to distrust in his eyes. Had something been done to it?

Maple blinked at his wary expression, and almost stepped back. "If you like yours plain, that's fine. We can have ours with... hmmm... what would you like?" she asked the younger. "I could use a bit myself."

"Jam and chocolate spread?" he asked hopefully.

The elder began slicing the bread in perfectly equal portions.

"Oh, hey..." Ariadne smiled, entering the kitchen. Quickly, she snatched a slice and began eating it, having noted the elder’s expression. She'd only barely survived arsenic poisoning herself, hence the reason for her sallow appearance, so she understood his apprehension completely. "Maple syrup here makes the best, don't she?"

Maple nodded and grinned cheerfully. "So one plain and two for jam and chocolate," Maple agreed brightly, looking for the two items in the cupboard. "My, you are careful with that. I should ask you to help slice the turkey for Thanksgiving," she told the older boy with admiration. "My hands are getting a bit shaky for that... Oh, what should I call you both? I need something to use--I'm Maple, by the way. Anything you like will do--plenty make up their own names here, you see. I have one 'Mouse' already, though!"

"I vote we call them Beanpole and Tiny," Ariadne offered, looking up at the uncommonly tall youth.

"Hey," the blonde protested, "I'm not that..."

"Sorry… yeah... you're that..." the girl corrected, winking. "Up to you though."

Maple shrugged and smiled helplessly. "I don't invent them, cheeries, I just use what you give me."

The tall boy shrugged. He didn't much care what he was called. He glanced at his brother. "Okay…" the little one sighed. "I guess Tiny works."

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:12 am

Soraya sighed and answered the phone again. "Yes, Mircea?" she asked just as she stepped outside, the sound of her high-heeled shoes echoed against the buildings.

"Where the bloody hell are you!" he demanded, as the chatter and cheers from the crowd sounded from somewhere behind him.

"On our way, Mircea," she said as she entered the limousine. "Here, talk to your nephew," she suggested, handing the phone over to Vlad. She used the excuse of settling herself back in to her seat. It was too cumbersome to try to maintain the conversation and do so at the same time.

Vlad looked horrified at the phone he'd been handed, while Min tried hard to stifle a laugh.

"As she said, we're on our way. Goodbye, uncle," Vlad blurted then hung up quickly, all but tossing the phone back at her. <Why would you give him to me?>

<He is your uncle,> Soraya reminded Vlad as she finally returned to her seat. <Why should I be the one to have to deal with him?>

<You are a member of this family, thus he is your uncle too. And he did call you,>
Vlad reasoned.

<Why? Of all of you, why would he call me?> she asked Vlad logically.

<I don't know,> Vlad answered. <I assume it's because you are who he wanted to talk to.>

Nait dove into the back and clambered back to his seat with a sigh. Silently he passed his earlier glimpse of the boy's torment to Radu. <I hope to keep tabs on those two in the future...>

<As do I,> Radu replied, frowning at the images Naitachel sent him.

Naitachel winced. "Mircea must be fairly upset by now, I am certain..."

"No doubt," Min chortled.

Soraya's eyebrow rose skeptically. "Since when am I the one who would want to speak with about these matters?" she asked Vlad. She bit back more annoyed commentary regarding his own lack of dealing with his family at all recently and returned her phone to her purse, lower lip in a full pout.

"Maybe since he only has your number," Min laughed outright then.

"Min!" Nait protested, eyeing him suspiciously. "You did not...!"

Min was lost in a fit of laughter then, nodding, helpless to speak.

Soraya regarded Min a few moments, aghast. "Truly, Min, what..." she growled, frustrated and threw her hands up in the air. "Wonderful."

The Seraph almost slapped himself on the forehead. "Soraya, I do apologize... I am certain Mircea had no intention to give you alone the brunt of his anger..."

"Perhaps not, but as it turns out I was the only target available," she sighed, shaking her head. "Though of course the apology should not come from you," she said, fixing Min with a pointed look.

"Sorry," Min sputtered. "But... honestly... would you have taken the call if you'd had a choice?"

"No, but I would not have played such a dirty trick on any of you either," Soraya responded, clearly unamused.

"That was rather low, Min," Nait admonished gently.

"I know," Min admitted, trying hard to stop laughing. "I'm sorry."

Radu sighed and shook his head. He should have known something was up when his brother called Soraya the first time.

"The laughter rather makes me doubt the sincerity of your apology, Minhea," Soraya responded, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Forget it, just... Let us get through tonight, shall we?" she dismissed. It had been a long night already, and it had barely just begun.

They could hear the crowd even before the car rounded the corner. Naitachel almost cringed in the seat. "Is this bigger than last time?" he asked in a tiny voice.

"I'm afraid so," Radu agreed.

Min sobered at the sight of the crowd. <Sorry, sis,> he told her, looking out the window. <It was unfair of me to do that.>

Soraya took a few deep breaths and closed her eyes, trying to control her temper and compose herself. When she opened them, she looked at Min and nodded in acceptance of his apology.

The car rolled to a stop finally...

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:14 am

Photographers and reporters swarmed the car the minute it stopped. Lisa and Jina were both on the runway, smiling and waving, looking absolutely stunning for the cameras. Between them, Mircea stood sullen and silent.

Nait glanced at Soraya, and silently sent her a comforting mental touch. He couldn't give much more right now.

Vlad took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze, as if to remind her he was there for her.

Min stepped out the moment the car door opened, drawing the cameras and microphones as well as he could in the hopes the others would be less harassed.

Soraya returned the comforting touch for Naitachel with a silent promise to do what she could to help in his own plight, as she intertwined her fingers with Vlad's. "Shall we?" she suggested.

Vlad stepped out, assisting Soraya then standing tall and waving to the crowd.

Soraya followed after Vlad and quickly began waving and smiling like an old practiced professional. <I am never quite prepared for the blindness that accompanies all these cameras,> she observed to Vlad wryly as she flattened herself to her husband to pose.

<That's because they get brighter every year. Why would anyone ever want this many pictures of us?> Vlad mused as he and his wife posed again.

<Oops, I almost forgot,> she laughed again for Vlad's benefit as she bent one knee and placed her hand on her hip. <The twins would roast me if I forgot my form.>

<Jina will have you in her modeling division again if you're not careful,> he warned his wife wryly.

Glancing at the others, Naitachel grabbed his crutches, taking a deep breath to gather his resolve. "Off we go, then," he breathed. <I think we fought easier wars...?>

<Perhaps we could simply let them do this? Jina can sing for them... it is her profession now, after all,> Radu offered hopefully.

<We promised,> Nait reminded reluctantly. "Let us get it over with. At least most here are usually allies, of sorts..." The Seraph edged to the door of the car and carefully scrambled out, setting crutches down carefully and trying to pretend there was nobody watching...

Radu nodded and forced himself to exit the car with Naitachel.

Nait's shields were up high and almost as solid as stone, however, against this multitude. At least the carpet muffled the click of his crutches. <Do not look, do not notice...> he hummed to himself under his breath, though the influence was certain to be minor at best...

At Radu and Naitachel's exit from the car, Min took hold of the nearest willing woman in the crowd and bend her back, kissing her passionately for the benefit of the press. Anything to distract them from Nait and Radu. As Min stood the woman back on her feet, she gazed up breathlessly at him, starry eyed and eager as the camera's continued to flash.

Soraya laughed and shook her head as she took Vlad's arm to spur him forward enough to capture more of the cameras as Naitachel emerged. <Perhaps I should choose a modeling career instead of counseling,> she mused. <Think I could be a swimsuit model? There are some interesting bikinis out there that require showing, after all.>

<You could be, but I'd rather you weren’t,> Vlad admitted. <Some sights I prefer to keep all to myself.>

<Selfish of you,>
the redhead laughed, then pretended to trip on her own feet and stumbled lightly in another attempt to draw attention.

<Yes, I know... I am horribly so,> Vlad replied mischievously, drawing her to him, 'catching' her it seemed, and holding her securely against him, to the delight of the press.

"Oh, Mrs. Prince, are you all right?" a reporter near them asked, concerned. "Does this mean you're pregnant? Or feeling sick?"

With a sheepish shrug for the cameras, Soraya then reached up and kissed Vlad's cheek. The reporter's question actually gave her pause, however. "Quite alright, thank you," she answered, "just clumsy as always."

"It means the city should even the sidewalk," Vlad answered, noting a slight lift where she'd stood and supposing it was as easy an answer as any. "And I should hold her more closely... for her own protection of course."

<You have become quite an expert at evading questions and providing convenient answers. Should I be worried?> the supposedly pregnant woman teased. "My husband the protector," she smiled to the reporter, placing her hand on her hip again.

The reporter by Vlad and Soraya grinned and took a few shots. "All gallant and grace, Mr. and Mrs. Prince! Are you sure you're not hiding something from the public? Any news you want to announce?"

<Not ever,> Vlad answered her, concern in his eyes. What had brought that on? "Actually, we are hiding something," Vlad answered, smiling. He waited for reporters to gather closer as he'd known they would, cursing inwardly when the one who'd cornered Nait and Radu at the door failed to take the bait. "But I think I'll save the announcement." He grinned then. "I rather like the idea of leaving you all in suspense a little longer."

<It was a tease!> Soraya assured him quickly, noting his suddenly serious countenance. Not that she liked his new secretary much, but... Soraya laughed at Vlad's expert manipulation of the reporters. <What morsel will you eventually feed them to satisfy them?> she asked him, hoping to change the subject.

The others swarmed Vlad and Soraya like piranha with blood in the water. "Is she pregnant?" "Is it a new breakthrough?" "A new project?" "A divorce?"

<We've found something. Something big. But I really want to tell you about it before I tell them,> Vlad answered. "I think I will," he began, waiting for all to lean in closer. "Make you all wait for the official announcement. After all... we've got something bigger going on tonight. Shall we?" he asked Soraya then, thoroughly enjoying leaving them all guessing.

Soraya's composure was lost for a few moments as she looked at her husband, startled. <What is it?> She knew, of course, that he would likely merely make her wait as well. This was hardly the place for grand revelations. She followed him willingly enough toward the entrance, hoping that they could escape the media themselves sooner rather than later.

<We've made a breakthrough. A HUGE breakthrough. I'll tell you all about it tonight,> Vlad answered as he escorted her the rest of the way inside.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:16 am

The Seraph glanced at Min with an amused smirk, but kept moving lest the vultures get closer. He nudged Radu with his shoulder, a nod of his head indicating Mircea. <Should we ask him to sneak in with us?>

<I already did,> Radu answered, moving as swiftly as he dared go without risking leaving Nait behind.

Limited by having to use crutches to keep the pretense up, Nait kept his pace as quick as he could. <Almost there...>

Radu nodded, even as Mircea dashed ahead of them, leaving the twins to enjoy the limelight and the others to at least pretend to do so.

Reaching the doors, the doorman opened them, and Naitachel breathed a sigh of relief, pausing to flash Radu a triumphant smile, then glancing back at the others. <All clear!> he announced.

Another reporter fiddled with her earpieces a moment then noticed Nait and Radu as they neared the door. "Excuse me..." she called out.

Radu paused, a step behind Nait and the safety of the building and sighed. Of course, it couldn’t be that easy.

The Seraph winced as one reporter noticed them... <Dare I turn around...?> he asked his mate, not certain it was safe to even look at the person lest they be blinded with flashes.

"Is it true, Mister Prince, that you caught Nait with another man? And that you and he are divorcing?" the reporter asked.

Naitachel stiffened and straightened as if slapped, whirling, eyes wide and stunned. "Pardon?" he choked.

"Is it true that you were caught in bed with one of the teenagers at your foundation and that the two of you are now getting divorced?" the reporter enunciated carefully, seeming to enjoy the smoldering look in Radu's eyes and the stunned expression Naitachel wore.

"Is it me, or does he do that innocent look a little too well. It seems terribly practiced," one of the cameramen suggested.

Radu stood closer to Naitachel, an arm going around him protectively as he guided him inside, not deigning to answer such a ridiculous question.

"Ooh... I think you made Mister Strong and Silent angry," another camera person giggled.

"Great image, though, right? And how do you think that particular 'no comment' is gonna play in the press?" the reporter asked the others as she began putting her equipment away.

Naitachel actually looked sick at the very thought. "A teenager?" he coughed, looking up at Radu in disgust and horror at the very notion. <If that is what they think, why even have me invited here?> the stunned Seraph wondered, dismayed and dispirited.

"What is it?" he asked Nait and Radu as they joined the rest of the family inside. "What happened?"

"Don't pay them any mind," a young starlet in a dress the same shade of red as both her hair and her lipstick offered. "They're bottom-feeders trying to create scandal. The more famous you are the more outlandish the stories. That's just how it is."

Soraya's own curiosity at what this was that had Vlad so excited was quickly overshadowed. "What did they say to you?" she asked in an echo of Vlad's query.

"And who wouldn't want to think you two hotties might end up single again? It feeds the fantasy. Tomorrow they'll say 'teenager', a few days later it'll be discovered he was legal and you're swoon-worthy all over again, but possibly single. Get it?" she continued.

The Seraph almost forgot how to use the crutches in his shock. It was a terrible blow to be accused of such acts. "Still... that is a terrible thing to suggest," he murmured. To Vlad and Soraya, he explained, "They said... asked... if we were divorcing over my... infidelity with a child...?"

"They WHAT?!" Mircea roared from behind him. "Who... tell me who said this?" he demanded.

The redhead gasped. "They said what?" she said, just as Mircea roared with indignation.

Naitachel cringed at Mircea's roar...

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:20 am

The Seraph huddled against Radu, feeling terrible about the very idea that anyone might think him so sick as to try such a deed. "I... do not know who she was," he admitted to Mircea, dispiritedly.

Whispers from across the room reached them then. "A tall boy... dark haired. Actually staying at the shelter. Seems he definitely has a type, just not an age..."

Mircea whirled on the speakers, his eyes narrowing,, fangs threatening...

"Enough," another voice from among the crowd demanded. "Have you lost your minds? Think who you're talking about. There's just no way..."

Soraya's jaw was agape, and she was truly stunned into silence. Who would create such a rumor? And more importantly, why?

"She's right," a third voice hissed. "One of the very best people I've ever met. Completely devoted to these kids, and to his family. He'd never ever do anything that sordid."

"Has there been anyone who is against your charitable works for some reason?" Soraya asked the seraph, trying to find some rhyme or reason to this. Not that she could see why anyone would disapprove of their works.

"Where there's smoke," the first voice suggested, only to be interrupted by the third. "You know what, Samuels, you should go. There's no place at this event for rumor mongering and I'm not about to stand here and let you damage the good name of such an amazingly good person."

"She's right," the second voice agreed. "If you're not here to be positive and supportive tonight, you don't need to be here."

"Explain then why he was late," the first spat. "He was dropping his underage hottie off at the shelter before leaving. Him and a tiny blonde. I've got pics if you want to see," she told them all defensively.

"Oh my," the second woman sighed. "What an attractive boy."

"Of course he's taking them to the shelter," the third spat. "That's what he does. That doesn't mean anything lewd is happening. Good gods, people, get your minds out of the gutter."

Naitachel reached to grasp Mircea's arm, in hopes of keeping him from revealing his true nature. "Please... If they are so determined to be unhappy with me, perhaps I might leave early and skip any performance." The Seraph shook his head at Soraya. "If there is any such, I have not been informed. But I do not handle much of the more administrative duties, truly."

Mircea slowly calmed himself, hearing others stepping up on Nait's behalf.

Radu sighed, then offered Nait his arm again. Head held high, he led him to the front, daring anyone to comment again.

The only thing the redhead could think of was of some parent angry that the agency had allowed their child, though mistreated, to slip through their fingers. "It will all be well," she assured the seraph, placing a gentle hand on his arm. "And look... you are inside the event rather than outside to face the media. That is a small victory, right? You have run the gauntlet and survived."

"Po-pah!" someone scoffed, striding up with a frown on his face. Fernando Florentine came up with his wife on his arm, glaring daggers at some of those whispering. "Idiots. Some tabloid just wants to fill its covers again. I've an idea to kick 'em back with, if you lot don't mind tabloid-tag..." His wife Zelany winked. "By the way, hello," she added, elbowing her husband.

"Mr. and Mrs. Florentine," Soraya greeted, noting that Michael had suddenly rushed off, presumably in the hopes of locating Sebastian. "Good evening. You have some idea that can be of help?"

"Tabloid tag?" Vlad asked curiously.

Fernando nodded, and Zelany rolled her eyes. "Yep, at least that's what he calls it," she giggled. Fernando snorted. "Suits the name. Basically, you use an anonymous tip to some rival tabloid and feed them some big, spectacular lie. Like death threats or something. Claim that to explain whatever the other one thinks it saw. And keep feeding that lie and gain the sympathy back."

Naitachel nodded politely to the pair, but from his sad eyes, did not feel up to being his usual talkative and cheerful self.

"We can always set that mess right," Fernando reassured, clapping Nait on the back and almost staggering the Seraph. "You go do what you do best."

"Besides, we'd hate for it to stop you," Zelany added gently. "Just because someone's out to be mean..."

"There you are!" a middle-aged woman called to the group. "We were starting to worry our star performer wasn't going to make it!" Penelope Mann was the woman in charge of coordinating this event. The middle-aged woman in question peered around Soraya at Naitachel with a questioning look. Either she hadn't heard the rumors or paid them no heed, for everything, to her, seemed business as usual.

Naitachel looked over at Penelope, and shook his head. "There is a great deal of hostility tonight. I honestly do not see much point if they are considering calling me to step away from this charity. But I see no other way to protect the children in question from accusations aimed at myself."

"Hostility? Posh. No one here believes such nonsense," she said, stepping around Soraya, who shrugged apologetically at the seraph. "Besides. Our patrons have already paid for their tickets. You wouldn't want to disappoint them, now, would you? You have the voice of an angel, after all."

""Perhaps later," Soraya said, intercepting Penelope. "He needs a moment to compose himself."

Naitachel sighed. "Then perhaps it would be better to be done with it sooner. I am sorry, Misses Mann, but I think it might be nicer to depart early this time."

"Oh, of course, dear," Penelope agreed. "You can be the first to perform after dinner is complete. I'll let them know of the program change." That still left them with at least a few hours' worth of time to spend here, given how much time just dinner took at these events.

"Well, we'll see you around. Keep in mind what I said about tabloid-tag, though!" Fernando chuckled, waving as he headed off with his wife.

Naitachel waved to the pair, calling after them, "Thank you!" Then, "Thank you, Misses Mann," the Seraph agreed. He glanced at Radu apologetically. <Perhaps, however, it is time to allow this charity to fly on without me. It might spare us further similar accusations. This must be trying for you, as well.>

<We are not abandoning your charity,> Radu assured him. <And don't worry for me. Sadly, I have grown somewhat accustomed to such foolishness.>

Nait arched a brow at his mate. <Mine, or theirs?> he asked, some of his usual humor returning.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:22 am

Soraya, for one, made her way over to the group in question that was discussing so loudly. "Good evening," she greeted them innocently as she took a flute of Champaign from a passing tray.

"Mrs. Prince, good evening," the first said. "How lovely you look tonight."

"Thank you! As do you. Last year's collection, I believe?" Soraya said, smiling. After all these years in society, she was, after all, versed in all the best undercutting "compliments," possible. "You all seemed so deep in conversation, I simply had to come and hear what the latest gossip was."

"I've been showing them the latest picture of your brother-in-law," the woman answered. "And no... It’s actually an original design, unlike yours. If it helps, though, you really do wear it far better than Berry, Johanson, or Ricci did." After a beat, she corrected, "Well, maybe not better than Ricci."

"Oh, you are confusing this with the dress you wore at the last event," Soraya laughed. "This is vintage, one-of-a-kind." She knew, for she had the only one, and it had been in her closet since the 1920's. She glanced at the supposed pictures. "Oh," she said, frowning, "How strange. I was there for that, and yet I am conveniently cropped out. I do find it rather horrific that anyone should take such pictures of minors running for their lives from terrible home situations and forward them to others. Whatever has happened to the notion that minors should be protected rather than touted. People now have no ethics or morality. And, what is worse, I think, are those who are so vapid and gullible as to believe them. Surely, Daisy, you did not think this was genuine? You are far too intelligent and independent-minded to believe it."

"Oh? So which were you... visiting..." the first asked, eying her critically.

"Visiting?" Soraya asked, blinking. "We were merely rendering them to safety, though I think that is truly none of your business. Really, Daisy, I thought you had more tact than this," Soraya chastised lightly. "Oh, by the way, what was the name of that pool-boy you used again?" she asked, having intimate knowledge of Daisy's own less-than-savory activities.

"You should know, Soraya. You referred him to me," Daisy spat. "And he really is just as... talented... as you led me to believe," she answered, making it clear that she'd have no qualms about taking her down with her if she tried anything.

Naitachel glanced at Mircea, to make certain he was calmer, and looked over at Vlad, wondering if he was going to help Soraya, as he could feel the mounting anger and hostility by her--and from her.

The second girl looked at the picture on Daisy's phone closely. "Look at their eyes," she sad to the third. "They look so sad...."

Soraya laughed, undaunted. Obviously Daisy as becoming flustered, though she herself had no concerns. One of the perks of having a telepathic husband, and Vlad's was the only opinion that mattered to her. "I never actually used him, I merely heard of him from Millie Thompson," she explained. Millie and Daisy were mortal enemies, and knowledge that they had shared a lover would likely leave her short in response.

Vlad stepped up behind his wife. "We met them on the way here when our car broke down. Once we got going again, my wife and brother in law got them into the shelter. It's far too cold and dangerous out there to leave children on the streets, don't you agree?"

"Indeed. Good boys, those two," Soraya commented, agreeing with Vlad. "Though, truly, I would appreciate it, for their sakes, if you would keep from forwarding these messages onward," she requested, taking her husband's arm. "The idea that their own images should be used so, when they have already been victimized... I am sure no one wants to partake in that." The redhead looked over at Naitachel and winked.

"See?" Penelope whispered into Nait's ear, obviously not oblivious to what was happening after all, "It's dying already. Besides, I think I heard something about Millie Thompson getting caught with one of the waiters in the bathroom. They'll move on to that scandal soon enough."

Daisy looked positively livid, but struggled to regain her composure. "Of course, poor dears," she replied sweetly, deleting the picture... or at least pretending to.

The lack of sincerity in Daisy's words was hardly lost on Soraya. <Catch!> she warned Vlad, before taking a step forward and putting on the familiar act of tripping over herself. "Oh dear!" she said, arms flailing as her Champaign spilled... directly onto Daisy's phone.

Daisy dropped her soaked phone in disbelief. "She did that on purpose!" she sputtered. "Did you see that?"

"Oh dear, oh dear!" Soraya gasped, stumbling back and stepping on the phone for good measure. "Oh my." She picked up the phone sheepishly and handed it back to Daisy. "I will certainly pay for another. I am so terribly sorry." She grabbed on to Vlad's arm theatrically to regain her balance.

Vlad made a show of steadying her and drew her close. "With an upgrade, of course," he assured Daisy, with a surreptitious wink in his wife's direction.

<I suppose I can be quite the actress myself, when I want to be... though I seem to be best at physical comedy,> Soraya told Vlad, trying to keep a straight face.

Vlad looked down, trying hard not to laugh as he led her to their designated table.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:24 am

Naitachel caught Soraya's wink and smiled a bit in relief. Nodding to Penelope, he admitted, "I suppose you are right. Still, I have no wish to be a burden to this charity. Be assured, if it seems I may become so, I would much rather step down than lead to endangering any of our charges, even with false accusations." He prodded Mircea toward the rest of the crowd with a light hand. "Radu and I shall be well enough now, I think. We have faced more hostile environments..." <Besides, there was mention of some concerns in the office regarding your... domestic life? I believe some suggested you find a mate...> he teased gently.

<I find a... what?> Mircea replied in disbelief. What need had he for such things as that?

"Posh!" Penelope said again, more emphatically this time. It was one of her favorite words. "We wouldn't have this organization without you," she assured him. "The rest of us would revolt and start a new one called... Lightwings, or something with you as the head if anyone were so much as to suggest to close this place down. Now, I do think you should enjoy some Champaign," she said, grabbing a flute, and thrusting it at Nait, "and we will see you soon! Tata!" she then said, waving brightly as she went over to the next group, whispering rather loudly about some scandal involving Millie Thompson.

The startled Seraph took the Champaign just to keep it from slopping over himself, and blinked after the woman in astonishment... before glancing at the drink and shrugging. "I may as well," he considered, shrugging and taking a sip, eyes flicking to Mircea. <Yes... to take care of your needs... Though someone suggested a male. I did try to correct that mis-interpretation...>

<I have no need for a caretaker, and were I to decide I did it would not be male,> Mircea fumed. <Who suggested that?!>

Radu carefully avoided his brother's gaze, having no desire to get caught up in that particular conversation. Instead, he led his entourage to their table, pulling out the custom stool for Naitachel.

<Simply a concerned member of your staff,> Nait answered carefully, knowing better than to reveal a name. Once seated and crutches set aside, he took a longer sip, seeming to cheer up further. <I told him otherwise, I assure you, and that you would find such when the time is right. Still, I suppose you might get out of the labs and be slightly more social...?>

<Why would I want to do that?>
Mircea frowned, grabbing his wine glass.

Soraya followed Vlad, grateful to be away from the animosity she felt from Daisy. Much as she knew how to hold her own, the whole double-talk and cutting undercurrents clearly disturbed her. She shuddered reflexively, a release of tension once they stepped away. <What a hateful woman,> she sighed, <though at least this whole situation with Naitachel seems to be dying down.> The redhead was glad to see Naitachel was returning to his good spirits when she came to stand near the table. "Everything alright?" she mouthed to him.

Nait nodded to Soraya, flashing a smile to affirm that yes, he was alright. <To... make friends?> he asked his brother-in-law, shrugging slightly.

<I don't need friends. I've got family,> Mircea answered simply.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:29 am

Henrietta walked slowly through the crowd, her right hand disappearing into the palm of her father's left more out of a feeling of childish obligation to his feelings than out of any wish for the contact herself. He needed, after all, to feel needed. As did her mother. Especially now when they were pretending to surrender her to a company for the majority of her day, placing her firmly out of reach of their parental protection.

Radu smiled and stood as he saw the Smiths' approach. Bowing slightly, he gestured to a grouping of chairs at their table. "Join us?" he offered.

Soraya sighed and the rest of the tension in her shoulders seemed to dissipate. She tugged at her chosen chair when she noticed that who it was that Radu was inviting to their table, a man with a young girl who look about Brianna's apparent age. She smiled at the girl instinctively.

Naitachel nodded in greeting to the Smiths from his seat, rather than fumble with the whole crutches pretense. "Good evening, Mister and Misses Smith, and to you as well, Miss Henrietta," he offered politely.

Henrietta smiled vaguely at one of the women in the group as she followed her parents into the chairs, curtseying in a matter-of-fact sort of way to the group of people before her, taking the edges of her favorite pink dress in her hands as she settled herself onto a seat, her feet not quite touching the floor. She waited for her father to greet the others and he did so... speaking just a little more nervously than one would expect from a man his size before flashing a huge, not-quite-sincere smile at the group of them. "Hello. It's a pleasure to meet you. I am very honored to be included here."

Radu waved someone over and said something to them. They returned with a small stool to place under the child's feet, so her legs wouldn't dangle so.

"I hope you don't mind," Radu said, seating himself again as the family joined them. "I thought perhaps you'd be more comfortable that way."

Soraya finished the task of pulling out her chair and sat, eyeing the man. There was something about him... "Pleasure to meet you. I am Soraya," she introduced herself, reaching across the table to shake his hand.

"It is a pleasure to see you again. Radu speaks very highly of all of you," Nait offered.

Martin Smith's handshake was very loose and gentle. In fact, he seemed in everything he did to consider those around him fragile, and to treat everyone and everything as though it were very breakable and the slightest force might damage them. "Thank you. My wife would have liked to join us, but she had to tend to something in the lab. We hope we're close to a ---" His phone rang, and he stood even as he reached for it. "Please excuse me. " As Martin walked away from the table, Henrietta situated her feet on the stool, observing the others with a gaze far too piercing and clear to belong on a child.

"By all means..." Nait agreed understandingly as the man rose to take that call. Golden eyes looked at the girl curiously, and he smiled. "So, Miss Henrietta, what do you think of all this pageantry?"

Henrietta blinked at Nait, her expression softening as with a conscious effort on her part, until it looked more like a child's expression again. "Oh. I like it. Little girls always like excuses to dress up."

Min quirked a brow at the child. "Average little girls, perhaps, but you are not one of those, are you," he stated rather than asked. "Would you like something to drink?"

The Seraph's smile quirked at Henrietta's answer. "So I have been told, but I suspect adult girls feel much the same and perhaps one does not grow out of it?"

"I know I haven't," Jina grinned. "I adore excuses to dress up and be fawned over."

Soraya retrieved her hand and glanced in Vlad's direction, gesturing that he should sit next to her. <Are they involved in this great breakthrough you wanted to tell me about?> she asked him.

Radu's phone rang then, and he shot Naitachel an apologetic look as he answered it.

Moments later, Vlad and Mircea's phones rang as well.

Naitachel arched a brow at his mate, then nodded to him, a tilt of his head suggesting he should do as he felt necessary and not worry about the Seraph feeling bothered by the interruption in the least. <I imagine you are all involved, then?>

<I suppose so,> she said to her husband, disappointment in her tone. She had hoped that they could at least have this evening uninterrupted. It had been so long since that had happened. "Had I known, I would have brought my daughter Brianna along," she said aloud with a smile as she nudged the basket of bread in Hattie's direction. "I think the two of you might get along."

Mircea rose, waving the other two off. "I'll handle this one," he told them. "You stay and enjoy this..." He hurried out then before anyone could argue.

Lisa grinned and nodded in agreement with Jina. "She even steals my makeup for these events," she prodded again, another reference to the earlier stolen and lost lip gloss that had given them a late start.

Vlad sighed, placing his phone back in its holster. <Thank you,> he told his uncle, having no desire to disappoint his wife.


Henrietta glanced between the two men, a Mona Lisa smile painted on her lips. She glanced sidelong at Jina, seeming on the verge of saying something before she turned her attention to the other lady. "Maybe," she said in an offhand way, having found that MOST children her age were entirely unbearable. "As for something to drink... I ate and drank before I came. My mother said I shouldn't risk getting anything on my dress... As to makeup, my mother doesn't wear makeup. She says it's bad for your skin."

Jina opened her mouth to retort, but was silenced by a stern look from her uncle.

A look of surprised crossed Soraya's features, then transformed into a smile as she took Vlad's hand under the table. <Thank you,> she said. She listened to Henrietta's quick responses to everything with some curiosity. <Her answers all sound so... rehearsed.>

Naitachel chuckled quietly. "It appears as though a major breakthrough is indeed in the works. Are you part of it, Miss Henrietta?" <She seems... extremely controlled. I wonder why. And what this 'breakthrough' involves. I hope not her.>

Lisa's eyebrow raised in Jina's direction, though she too remained quiet.

<Indeed.> Vlad frowned.

"So you've no desire for any of the refreshments... and you don't enjoy dressing up..." Jina asked. "Why're you here?"

"Forgive my sister," Min whispered. "She left her manners with her own lip-gloss in her other handbag."

"Min," Nait chided gently.

"So what do you like to do?" Min asked the child. "Obviously, you're not the Barbie doll and bubble gum rock type, so...?"

Henrietta blinked at Jina, barely concealing a hint of distaste. "It is a company party. I have recently been accepted into the robotics division. It is appropriate that I be here." At Min's input she tilted her head to one side, considering briefly before shaking her head. "No, she isn't actually being impolite. Things which aren't altogether advisable aren't necessarily rude. I like science. I am especially interested in the creation of artificial intelligence."

"And your father? He works for Dragon Enterprises as well?" Soraya asked absently, noting his telephone call had come at the same time as Mircea's.

"Ms. Smith graduated top of her class at MIT, with a doctorate in science and technology," Radu told the others at the table. "She possesses one of the brightest minds of our time."

Naitachel eyed Henrietta with a slightly puzzled expression, considering what he could see of her soul and trying to mentally synch that with the personality she was demonstrating. "Congratulations are in order, then. So, you work on robotics because you enjoy it?"

"Indeed?" Soraya asked at Radu's announcements. "That is impressive. Congratulations indeed!"

"And yet, she doesn't know that at events like these, it's permitted and even expected to order all the typically forbidden sweets and sodas you can swallow, no matter what age you are." Min grinned. "So much to teach her..."

Something of actual warmth infused Henrietta's face at the turn of the subject. "Thank you, Mr. Prince... Oh yes. I love robotics. The problem with robotics so far has been that we've been attempting to stray too far from the biological template offered us. I believe that a simulation of the human brain is the first step to creating an AI. Naturally, this involves improving on the brain as we know it. Improve processing speed, memory storage capacity... not to mention recall. I'm so excited to get a hold of the equipment you have here. Your labs, as I’m sure you know, are the best available."

Radu smiled softly as the enthusiastic young girl he interviewed finally shone through. He'd never been so excited about a new hire since the formation of Dragon Industries so long ago. "I look forward to seeing what you can accomplish there."

"So I am told. I fear I do not comprehend such things well, Miss Henrietta. I leave those delvings to Radu and the rest of the family," the Seraph chuckled. "There are some things I am not meant to partake in, unfortunately."

"How do you propose to make use of the template, given the variances present in any cross sampling?" Vlad asked, genuinely interested in hearing how she would answer.

"Oh, well you should ask my dad sometime. He and mom work here at Dragon Enterprises too. My dad's the one that came up with the idea of mimicking the construction of living beings and simply using better building materials," Hattie told Nait before turning to Vlad, eyes bright with interest, "Well, that's the thing isn't it? I need to essentially deconstruct, on every level, the human brain. Then I need to put it together in cybernetic form testing different materials to find the structure and composition necessary for the 'perfect brain'."

"How do you propose to deconstruct a human brain?" Jina asked, horrified by the mental images the phrase suggested.

Soraya glanced at Vlad with a raised eyebrow. "I fear I am with Naitachel," she said, "Robotics are hardly my forte." She glanced at the seraph in question, noting his near-empty Champaign flute, the other eyebrow joining the first. <Oh well. Perhaps I should join you,> she said, taking up another flute herself, given that her first had been sacrificed. As discreetly as she could, she took a long swallow from her Champaign.

Naitachel glanced at Radu in concern. <Best keep this one from our military visitors earlier in the week,> he suggested warily. <In fact, the more hidden from them, the safer she is...> He took a pull of his drink and flashed Soraya a sympathetic look. "I am curious as well... How do you find such knowledge? Can that be accomplished humanely?"

"Mostly computer imaging now," the little girl answered, her tiny feminine sounding very matter-of-fact. "Though, some physical dissections may be necessary... By the way... Maybe I could have a – little - soda... "

"Dissections?" Soraya asked, blanching at the thought. She was never one for the clinical removal required for such activities.

"Ah, so nice to see you've arrived," a voice chimed in behind them. "Henrietta Smith, I presume," he held out his hand to the child. "I'm Adam Archer, and if you find you have a moment, I'd really like to talk to you privately."

"Mister Archer, please, this is not the place nor function to recruit a minor," the Seraph stated quietly but firmly.

Radu stood and placed himself between the child and Archer. "I suggest you make an appointment with her secretary, then, and she'll see if she can fit you in," he answered for her, refusing to so much as let him touch her hand.

Henrietta nodded, rising from her seat and curtsying to the others before edging her way toward the man who spoke to her. "It's alright. My parents know him."

Watching the girl walk off with Archer, Soraya frowned, though her attention was diverted when Penelope took the stage, announcing the start of dinner.

With Penelope's announcement, the first course of salad was served, and the sudden sound of cutlery scraping against plates could be heard.

Radu picked at the contents of his plate, deep in thought.

The Seraph glanced at Radu helplessly, and slumped in his seat, finishing off his Champaign. The start of dinner was a bit more cheering at least...

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:34 am

"Is it any good?" a familiar voice asked Soraya from near behind her.

"Oh! John!" the redhead answered, greeting her classmate. "I had no idea you would be here."

"Of course. And I think Emmett might actually have weaseled his way onto our family's table, too, just to warn you," he said with a shake of his head. "Don't let me interrupt, I just wanted to say hi. Misters Prince," he said nodding to Vlad, Radu, Min, and Naitachel each in turn. "Misses."

Vlad frowned slightly. What was her classmate doing here? At his greeting, however, he smiled and nodded.

Jina stood and smiled. "Mr. Deerfield. How lovely to see you again."

Nait nodded politely to John. "Good to meet you again, Mister Deerfield." He curled his tail against Radu's ankle, to offer some consolation. They could do nothing to protect the girl from her own parents...

Min tried not to laugh out loud as his sister flashed her million dollar smile at him.

"Miss Jina," John grinned with a nod and a kiss to her hand. "You look lovely tonight," he said, having put on his best formal persona. "Well, I really should get back to our table. As I said, I just wanted to say hello." With that, he excused himself, but not before glancing at Jina meaningfully, then Soraya.

Emmet approached them, smiling, already a bit tipsy. "Soraya..." He walked up and threw his arms around her, ignoring the sudden flash of cameras.

Naitachel almost choked on his food when Emmet hugged Soraya.

Soraya startled at Emmett's appearance and sudden display of... affection? "Emmett," she greeted, confused. "Just how much Champaign have you had, exactly?" she asked him.

"I hoped I'd see you here," he whispered into her hear, taking a deep breath, savoring her scent. Backing up and grinning, he shrugged and nearly stumbled. "Just a little," he giggled.

"Oh dear," she sighed. "Perhaps I should take care of him?" He hardly seemed to be in a state to be left to his own devices.

Golden eyes widened. <You may find yourself the one plastered on newsprint tomorrow already!> "Perhaps a waiter would be better--he may need to clear his head a bit..." he suggested. <His mind needs cleaning, trust me...>

"Let's get out of here," Emmet whispered to her. "I know just the place."

"Pardon?" Soraya asked, frowning. Clearly, the alcohol was confusing him. "Emmett, I think perhaps you should go have some water and take a moment to compose yourself."

"Compose... I’ll compose you a symphony... you're my muse..." Emmet insisted. "Run away with me..."

"Emmett," Soraya sighed, standing. He was making a scene. <I will just see him away to somewhere he can clear his mind,> she told Naitachel. She took his arm and began trying to steer him toward the restrooms.

Vlad quirked a brow as Min roared in amusement.

"See..." Emmet breathed heavily as she began to move with him. "I knew it. I knew we were soul mates. Love trumps money, right?"

The Seraph almost face planted into his palm. <You are taking a fair risk,> he told her with a mental sigh. He glanced at his mate and Vlad, uncertain they might be of aid in avoiding a train wreck...

<What else am I supposed to do?> she asked Naitachel, shrugging. "Excuse me?" she asked Emmett. "Are you suggesting that...?” She frowned at his implication. "Emmett, you are being insulting. I really think you need to clear your head. We can discuss this later, when you are lucid." There was no use arguing with him in this state.

Vlad rose, looking down at the man hanging on his wife. Min looked over at John. "Hey," he laughed. "You brought him..."

"Insulting?" Emmet demanded, getting incrementally louder as he did so. "Insulting?! You find my love INSULTING?!"

"I find your suggestion that I married Vlad for money insulting," Soraya answered. "Perhaps you should go find John and let us get back to our evening."

"I didn't say you married him for money, I said his money wasn't enough to keep you there while he ignored you..." Emmet protested. "I'd never ignore you. I'd be there for you... no matter what..."

"Ignored her?" Vlad asked, stunned.

Naitachel rose as well, not wanting this to get too serious, and used his crutches to take a step or two towards Emmet, looking for a way to reach in and try calming the man. "Gentlemen, this is not the place for such discussions..."

Cameras flashed and people whispered as the scene progressed.

Soraya looked at Naitachel, wordlessly asking if his particular gifts might help in these situations. "Emmett," she warned, "as I have told you, I am busy as well." It was the best she could offer, unable to bring herself to outright lie about her current feelings. She had hardly expected these difficulties she had brought up during a practical exercise in a group to be thrown back in her face. "Naitachel is right, this is not the place," she sighed helplessly, now tugging on Emmett to get him moving.

Emmet looked lost. "You deserve better," he whispered to Soraya before wandering dejectedly back to John's table.

<So much drama this evening,> the Seraph sighed to his mate, moving to resume his seat and taking another flue of Champaign.

<Why would he think you were ignored?> Vlad asked his wife.

Soraya sighed as Emmett left and glanced apologetically at Vlad. <I never said...> she began, shaking her head as she tried to find the words. <I merely mentioned that we have not seen much of each other in recent months during a practical exercise.> This was not the particular place for this discussion, either. Self-consciously, Soraya followed Naitachel's example and moved to resume her own seat as well, hoping the matter would drop for now.

Vlad looked stunned. <You told strangers...> He stopped, shaking his head as he took his own seat and a glass of champagne.

Naitachel breathed a sigh of relief. "That one truly needs to seek his own help somewhere... Such a dirty mind..." he sighed.

"I dunno," Min attempted to lighten the mood. "He sounded sincere in his proclamations, don't you think?" He winked at his sister in law. "You seductress, you."

<I told friends in a place that was supposed to be in confidence,> she answered Vlad defensively. <Am I to have no one outside this family to rely on?> she asked him. <Even when it seems sometimes those within this family are too busy with their own business to take notice?> She was irked herself at Vlad's accusation, and these past months of pent up frustration were hardly helping.

Vlad glared at his brother but was stopped from commenting by the ringing of his phone.

Soraya shook her head and looked away dejectedly. And she had had high hopes for this evening. "Now all we need is Sophia to call," she grumbled under her breath just as Vlad's phone rang.

Nait arched a brow at Min. "She was not the only one he hinted interest in, however..." And blushed slightly, shutting his mouth swiftly. He had almost admitted out loud to picking it up with his empathy...

"Who else was he interested in?" Min asked curiously.

Nait's eyes darted to Vlad and back to Min, and he smiled sheepishly. The smile faded at the domestic discord that was brewing at their table.

Vlad stood and gathered his coat, listening intently to whoever was on the other end of the line. "No... It’s fine," he said at last. "Just watch the gauges until I get there." He shrugged his coat on, holding the phone between his shoulder and his ear. "I'll be right there."

Soraya blinked back tears as Vlad rose to go. <Well, at least we can leave as soon as you have sung,> she told Naitachel with a weak smile.

Vlad closed his phone, avoiding Soraya's gaze. "Well... I suppose this will give you something to talk about at your next session," he said quietly, then left.

Radu frowned deeply at the discord between his nephew and his wife.

Naitachel nodded to Soraya's silent words, and slumped, wishing he could do something to help his nephew- and niece-in-laws. "I suspect it would be best if we did. Tonight has been a landslide of unfortunate events and news, it seems..."

The redhead nodded, swallowing hard against the lump in her throat. She was finding the tears harder to contained than she had hoped. "Excuse me," she said, standing and making a quick exit toward the bathrooms.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:36 am

"What's going on?" Michael asked, glancing after his mother as she moved past him. He had been busy chatting with one of his friends elsewhere and was just returning to the table to join the party.

Jina glanced toward her twin, then hurried after her sister in law. "Your father is an ass," Jina answered as she hurried past him after Soraya.

"Huh?" Michael asked as Lisa moved past him as well. He blinked at those remaining at the table, which comprised of only part of their group, mainly Min, Radu and Naitachel.

The Seraph pushed to his feet and caught at his crutches. "I think I might take that as an example. Pardon me. I shall be back shortly." <I think I will head to the balcony. Too many wild emotions, and I do feel a bit swamped at this time,> he told Radu. <I shan't be long, so you needn't come with.> He hoped to escape the press of people briefly and let his shields lower at least a little, to "breathe" for a moment.

Michael watched as Naitachel stood as well, then smelled his coat jacket surreptitiously. "I don't think I smell," he observed before plopping into one of the chairs. "Seriously, what'd I miss?"

Min quickly filled him in, grabbing another drink and sitting back in his chair as his uncle's phone rang.

A thin woman with a long, beak-like nose, stood at the podium, tapping at the mic. "Ladies and gentlemen," the woman croaked. "Thank you for coming to our first annual..." She droned on and on...

"There you are!" Penelope said to Naitachel as she located him outside. "We're about to start."

Naitachel clicked his way over to the balcony/terrace doors, and stepped through, only to get accosted by Penelope. He leaned on his crutches blinking at her a moment, then sighed. "Oh very well..."

"Hey, where'd your table go?" Penelope asked Naitachel as she led him back inside.

"Vlad had business, and the ladies are at the bathroom," Nait explained glumly as he clicked his crutches in her wake. For once, he actually did lean on them, though he wasn't certain why he wanted to...

"Huh, well, I hope they come back soon or they'll miss your tour de force!" Penelope whispered coquettishly in Naitachel's ear .

"I'll join you when the event is done and our own seen safely home," Radu assured the caller. "No. I promised Naitachel I would be here for him, and that takes precedent..."

Naitachel arched a brow at his mate, but did not sit again, instead staying leaning on his crutches. Why sit only to get up again so soon? Besides, he could lean on them... <Another late night, I gather?> he sighed. <I suppose I shall drop by the church after this, then, and rest...> The Seraph shrugged. "They heard me often before this," he told Penelope. "I can sing for them at home..."

"Still, I think any of them missing your singing like this is criminal. They should listen to you every chance they get." She smiled encouragingly. The woman with the beaked nose was still talking, and Penelope made an impatient clicking sound with her tongue.

Naitachel smiled a touch sadly. "Well, I am certain they may try. It is just a bad night tonight. One can but hope the worst is over..."


Soraya stood in the far area of the bathroom, hand upon her stomach as she breathed deeply, trying to compose herself.

"Hey, you okay? Come on, breathe" Lisa urged Soraya gently after ensuring no one but their group of three was inside and locking the door behind them.

"Okay?" Soraya asked Lisa incredulously, "No. I just... I know..." she said, the tears finally overwhelming her. "I know I completely mishandled that, but I have been trying so hard to just be supportive. I kept telling myself that it would pass, but..." She choked off, turning her back to them. "And now things are worse."

"He didn't handle it any better," Jina spat. "The fool..."

"Maybe if I just quit school," Soraya said unhappily. "I could make more time for him." She didn't know what else to do. It was obvious Vlad wasn't going to change, and asking him to give up work that could help so many people was selfish. She let out one loud sob before closing her eyes and working to regain her control. There was a hush outside and she thought perhaps Naitachel was about to perform. She wanted to be there for that.

"Quit school?" Lisa hissed. "What nonsense is that? And you're not the one without time. He's gone for days at a time, not you."

"I don't know what else to do!" the redhead retorted. Her tone read of helplessness.

Jina sighed. "Well, we'll brainstorm together... after Nait sings, though. Uncle says we should get back to the table. He's about to begin."

"I will be right there," Soraya agreed, blowing her nose loudly on some toilet paper.

Jina nodded. "We'll deal with our brother," she assured Soraya. "Just relax and let us handle it, okay?"

Lisa looked at Jina sadly. <What a cloth-head that brother of ours is,> she said as she unlocked the bathroom door.

Jina couldn't help but agree.

Soraya took a few more moments to fix her appearance, then returned to the table herself, just as the woman at the podium announced their distinguished star of the show, Naitachel himself.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:39 am

The crowd applauded, then waited expectantly for the angelic tones to begin.

Taking a deep breath, the Seraph clicked his way to the podium, and stopped beside it. For a moment, he considered offering some sort of message, to address the day, the issues that swamped them all, to offer hope to friends and family. But what to say? The words were not there for him to find, not tonight. He felt tired, the wild emotions of the night beating him down despite his shields...

<Remember why we are here, beloved. Focus on the children you help every day...> Radu offered. <And know that your family, such as it is, remains very proud of you.>

Instead, Nait turned to glance at those who had been providing the music of the evening. "Gentlemen and ladies, if you would follow my lead..." <Thank you,> he told Radu, wrapping him in affection.

Soraya couldn't help but smile encouragingly at Naitachel. She knew that his song, at least would help soothe her emotions and maybe set some of the nights' events at least less raw. And perhaps the applause would help him move on from his own trials this evening as well.

Without further ado, Naitachel started into a song, soft at first and building from there, building up the hope and good cheer as he went. The more he went into it, the more he slipped out of merely speaking it and into his layered notes, but he managed to keep it to just a hint of them and nothing anyone could put a firm finger on.

Soraya allowed herself to be lost in Naitachel's song, allowing its contours to lull her into calmness, or at least the best version of that she could manage.

Radu smiled softly as he listened to his beloved sing, allowing the beauty to engulf him.

As he sang, the Seraph sent some of his energy to clear the air emotionally, spiritually, a hint of warmth rippling through the air. It would tire him, he knew, but it was worth it.

As the song ended, the audience remained quiet for a long few moments... then erupted into enthusiastic applause. Obviously, the rumors that had been flying earlier were long forgotten for this lot.

Naitachel smiled tiredly at the applause, leaning on his crutches. Well, at least they knew good music when they heard it.

Soraya herself joined in, standing, smiling at Naitachel as she did so.

The audience rose, applauding enthusiastically for the seraph.

Radu rose proudly, smiling at Naitachel. <Beautiful, as always, beloved.>

The redhead sent Naitachel a gentle, if tired, mental hug. <Wonderful. You always rise to the occasion, dear one.>

<Thank you,> the Seraph told his family, flashing Radu a happy glance. He always enjoyed cheering his mate up and helping take some of his cares away. Then he moved on to the other, planned songs... There were only perhaps three planned, and he had no intention of more this night.

As Naitachel's songs ended, Penelope took the stage, squeezing Naitachel's arm quickly and whispering in his ear (covering the microphone with her free hand), "Now is likely the best time to make a quick exit while I distract them with my scintillating rundown of our next performer."

Naitachel smothered a chuckle, nodding to Penelope, and retreated back to his family's table. <Let us escape while we may,> he suggested. <Penelope has offered to cover for us.>

Radu nodded, and gestured for the others to follow, calling quickly for Colin to bring the car around.

Penelope began her own rather long-winded introduction to the rest of the evening's performers, drawing out the speech as long as possible purposefully.

As Penelope spoke, Soraya collected her things and made for the door, more than happy to be away from the crowd, where she could nurse her wounds in private.

The Chauffer brought the car around to the red carpet, but most the reporters had gone by now...

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:44 am

<Coming?> Soraya called to Nait and Radu as Michael joined her. He squeezed Soraya's shoulder in encouragement quickly as he passed, mentally debating whether he should go see his father at work to find out his version of events. The others would probably think he was meddling, though, and they'd be right.

Naitachel leaned on his crutches as they made their way out and towards the car. <Perhaps he might drop me directly at the church. I am feeling a bit worn from this night... and there was somewhere you wished to go as well, the labs again?> he asked Radu. He resigned himself to yet another night he would not see his mate much.

"There is nowhere I would wish to be but with you," Radu corrected gently. "However, there has been a mishap at the lab, and I fear that Vlad and Mircea are finding it more difficult to contain than we'd originally hoped."

"Contain... what? If it is difficult for you, might I be of aid?" Nait asked, concerned.

The Chauffer opened the door for Soraya and Michael as the others caught up. "Ma'am," he stated, touching his cap and smiling. Hey, this way they'd beat the thick traffic of when the event ended.

Soraya's ears perked at Radu's words, though she continued to stare out of the car window as the city began to scroll by. "Radu," she asked, "Vlad mentioned that you had had some great breakthrough...? Is this related?"

"Likely," Radu sighed. "Though, I fear this incident may set us back somewhat."

"Do you need me to come, uncle?" Min asked, concerned.

Radu shook his head. "I'll call if we need more hands," he assured him.

"I'll go," Michael offered.

"I would not mind coming, if only to satiate my curiosity finally," Nait agreed. "Whatever could be so difficult for them to contain?"

Soraya glanced at her son with a raised eyebrow. "May I inquire," she asked Radu instead, "as to the nature of this breakthrough?" She herself was torn between going and steering clear of Vlad altogether for some time to allow tempers to settle.

Radu sighed, leaning his head back and closing his eyes a moment. "Delicate and somewhat dangerous work, I'm afraid," he answered quietly. "I fear much of it my own."

"What is the goal of it?" Nait inquired, concerned.

"Primarily correcting genetic defects," Radu answered, his eyes still closed. "But we've run into several issues, not the least of which is the attempted militarization of our work."

Soraya couldn't stop the unbidden thought that a setback in their research would likely extend the duration of their family's prolonged absences. She sighed despite herself. "Hence the General's visit to Dragon Enterprises," she stated, connecting at least a few dots.

"Add to that, espionage, sabotage of experiments," Min chimed in, "and mysterious disappearances of some of our top scientists..."

Radu opened his eyes and shot his nephew a warning look. There was no need to worry them with quite that much information.

"All of those suggest you have moles," the redhead said with a frown.

Smiling gently, Naitachel slid over to Radu and gave him a tug, to encourage him to rest his head in his lap. At least he could offer some soothing influence before a massive headache hit the man. "Well, Taggert was chased off. If need be, we may threaten to move to another country with it. I believe Italy's offer still stands, though the Pope insisted we go to Rome..." His eyebrows rose at Min's additions. "Need we fear a traitor in our midst?"

"Precisely. Which is why we're spending so much time at the labs. We dare not leave our work unattended overlong before it is completed, lest it be tampered with," Radu agreed.

"Like it was tonight, apparently," Min concluded.

<I put my stakes on Vlad's assistant, Sophia,> Soraya sent to Naitachel, making the comment purely out of spite.

Naitachel arched a brow at Soraya. <It could be anyone,> he hedged, to be fair. "We might always try investigating... and seeking the truth?" he offered. After all, he knew a lie when he heard it.

Soraya felt a pang of guilt at this news, along with some worry. She had known she was being selfish, which was why she hadn't spoken up to begin with, in the hopes that it would simply pass. Still, things had blown up, and now she found out she was being even more selfish than she had realized.

<I know,> she answered, <but there is something about that woman I do not trust.>

"I would prefer not to have you in the potential crossfire," Radu answered, his voice sounding faint and distant as sleep threatened to catch up with him there in the car. "We shall manage it."

Unfortunately, the redhead found that underneath, she still couldn't help but be hurt at the feelings of being left behind the whole situation had left her with, no matter how hard she tried to suppress them.

"Well, at the least, perhaps we can help with this cleanup somehow," Soraya offered, noting Radu's exhaustion.

Naitachel glanced at Soraya and shrugged slightly. He could not say either way, as he hardly ever met the woman in question and hadn't much chance to study her. Instead, he stroked Radu's hair gently, encouraging his mate to rest. That Radu had worked hard enough to be dozing off like this spoke volumes for a man who rarely slept at best. "We may as well this time, as Radu is hardly up to being of aid himself. If the others are this worn, they may make crucial mistakes, too, I fear..."

"There is the potential for infection if the agents are active," Radu breathed, forcing his eyes open.

Nait's eyes widened. "For who--you?"

"What kind of infection?" Soraya's question came at the same time as Naitachel's.

"The sort better left to those it won't likely kill... at least not permanently," Min answered, nudging his uncle gently. Radu sat up, stretching as well as he could within the confines of the vehicle. "Don't worry," Min assured them in a voice far more confident than he felt. "We'll be fine."

The Seraph merely arched a sardonic eyebrow at Min. "So it is more dangerous to mortals, then?"

"Potentially," Min replied. "We think..."

The red-haired woman frowned. "That decides it. We are going with you." She could hardly let her last words spoken to her husband be in anger. If it came to that. Worry creased her brow as she thought of the possibilities.

"Beloved, please," Radu pleaded. "I should prefer you not be near this. It is uncertain who if any would be immune to the specimens released, and I could not bear it if you were to become ill." He looked at the others in the car. "Min... Michael... please take them home, then stay there with them. There's no need for you to be exposed either."

"I would rather we do not test it on any of you, either," Nait murmured, moving out of Radu's way as his mate stretched. "I may always clean such my own way, if it is such a danger? I understand you would rather not lose research, but it is better than struggling to cure someone afflicted."

"It would be good to find a cure," Min suggested.

The Seraph snorted. "How likely would it affect me? My blood is not even remotely similar..." He trailed, blinking, then frowned slightly. "Surly you did not...?"

"I am going," Soraya reiterated with determination.

Radu looked to Michael to reason with his mother.

Michael looked at Radu helplessly. <You think she'd listen to me?> he told his great-uncle. "Um, Mom, that's not a great idea," he tried, drawing a dark and dangerous look from his mother.

<Sit on her if you have to,> Min suggested to Michael, though he himself had no intention of letting his uncle go into that alone.

<Yeah, and lose all my hair to fire permanently?> Michael asked Min.

The car pulled over and waited outside a Greek orthodox temple. "Here you are, beloved," Radu urged his mate. "Pray, rest and regenerate. No doubt you'll need all your wits for the children tomorrow."

On receiving no answer, Nait's frown deepened slightly, and he tucked his tail closer to his feet. "I am not supposed to be part of your answers in this world, Radu. But I am not about to abandon you to something when you can barely keep your eyes open. If it is something that may afflict you, I have every intention of pulling you from the fire, so to speak, as it sounds as though no other may without severe risk to themselves." The Seraph moved to knock on the window to indicate they move on. "I promise we shall stay back unless necessary, but I cannot in good conscience leave."

"Uncle didn't use anyone else's DNA in his research, however, not all of the scientists involved were quite so ethical," Min answered, determined that his uncle not come under fire for something he didn't do.

"You would be at risk," Radu argued even as the car pulled back into traffic. "I should prefer you not be. Please."

"Radu, even after all this time, have you not learned that we will find some way of making it to the laboratory whether you want us to or not?" Soraya reasoned. "Save your strength for the task at hand. He and I will remain away from the contamination, if we can."

Radu looked pained at the thought, but knew Soraya spoke the truth.

Naitachel glanced at Soraya, uncertain what to do about her, considering her humanity... but then, perhaps meanwhile she might ferret out the saboteur? "My blood is the least similar, Radu. I should think your risk is far higher than mine. Besides, I might easily purify the contamination away before it ever endangers myself. And as Soraya has said, we shall stay back unless necessary."

"This is why we didn't discuss any of this with you before," Min groaned.

Soraya sniffed at Min's words, suggesting what she thought about that. It seemed it might have, at least, saved everyone some pain and flaring tempers.

The car pulled into the parking lot and stopped. Radu opened the door without waiting for Colin and exited, hurrying into the building and using his code to lock the doors behind him.

Soraya followed after Radu, grimacing when the first door did not open.

"He is trying to lock us out," she said, incredulously.

Naitachel clambered out of the car and grimaced. <Radu...> he complained when he caught up with Soraya. <Do you truly wish one of us to smash a window or melt a lock?> The vampire was fast, but then again, they were determined. "Min, if you would save us some foolishness?"

The redhead tried her code to no avail, before turning to Min as well expectantly.

"You're really asking me to risk his wrath later?" Min tried. "Look... let's compromise... You guys go home, and I'll come back and help fix this, okay?"

"Not a chance," Soraya responded. "Fine. Burning through them it is. I wonder how much these locks will cost to fix," she said, the air around her becoming notably warmer.

Naitachel held up his hand, a faint glow by the fingers. "It is her way, my way, or yours, Min," he suggested. <I will fry the system if I must.>

"Wait!" Min protested. "Look... just... stay in the main foyer until I know how bad things are, okay? Please? At least agree to that?"

Soraya thought on that a moment. "Maybe." It was the best she would offer.

Naitachel shrugged slightly. "We shall try. But mind you, those answers are likely best if swift."

Min glanced at Michael, then sighed and keyed in his override code quickly.

Men in full body biohazard suits were already escorting others through the foyer on plastic encased gurneys. "Not without a suit," they yelled to the newcomers.

Despite the situation, Michael couldn't help but stand back and be amused at the fact this Naitachel and his mother were bullying Min into doing their bidding. <Man, you don't stand a chance when they really gang up on you, do you?>

<Nope,> Min answered. <Uncle’s going to kill me for this...>

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:48 am

Soraya glanced around and located the area where said suits were kept. Without hesitation, she grabbed one...

Someone in a suit came up to them, reaching out to help Soraya don one. "Here... I'll fasten you up," a sultry female voice offered.

The Seraph glanced at the biohazard suits, and then at Soraya and Min and Michael, concern and worry making him frown slightly. <Not so minor a mishap, it seems.> Shifting behind Soraya as if to grab one himself, he began to hum under his breath, to try keeping unnoticed... There was no way in hell he'd fit in one.

Min put on the suit quickly, clearly well practiced in the procedure.

Given the activity and chaos, Soraya barely registered the voice. Instead, she allowed the helpful individual to assist her.

"No suit no entrance, sir," another in the suit addressed Naitachel. "Sorry."

The assistant fastened the clasps quickly, with expert precision and obvious practice. "There you go," she said. "Should I take you to your husband now?"

"Yes," Soraya answered quickly, before Min could.

The Seraph's eyes narrowed. He glanced sharply at Min. <I request you appraise me of the situation, and swiftly, lest I give in to temptation and sing the lot into immobility,> he growled. "I am staying right here, for now," Nait stated to the one blocking his path, folding his arms across his chest.

Min nodded to Naitachel, a silent promise to apprise him immediately.

Mircea guided another of the gurneys out, barking orders then hurrying out, certain they'd be obeyed.

This scene was increasing her concern by the minute, and she wanted to make sure Vlad was alright. It never occurred to Soraya to wonder how it was this person knew who she was so quickly or why they were being so immediately helpful.

Michael watched his mother with concern, but decided to remain where he was, along with Naitachel, in case he was needed.

Naitachel glanced at Michael and sighed, leaning on his crutches. His head was hurting a bit now, but that was probably the Champaign, knowing how much he had drunk this evening.

"This is bad," Michael commented needlessly to Naitachel before noting the seraph seemed rather not himself either. "Hey, they'll be okay," he told him, misinterpreting it for pure anxiety.

"I know," Naitachel agreed. "I can feel that much..."


Soraya followed after the woman who had offered to take her to Vlad, terribly frightened for her husband's safety despite everything. "Is he far?" she asked.

Vlad was in a full suit as well, tending to people falling ill faster than they could get to them. Radu was working alongside others in suits trying to contain the contamination. The woman who'd assisted her walked to Vlad and leaned down, speaking quietly to him. He looked up, frowning inside the suit.

Soraya remained where she was, relieved to see him, at least, unhurt. Now that she had seen him, she began debating making herself scarce for fear of making him even angrier than he was. She actually turned toward the exit before nearly tripping on someone who had fallen just behind her. "Oh my," she said, bending to help them.

"Initiate the C-66 protocols and get everyone out of here," Radu told the man he was working next to. "I want the building cleared before full lockdown takes effect."

"Of course. Where should we meet you, sir?" the man asked.

"We'll rendezvous in lot 10," Radu lied, knowing full well he'd be locked inside. "Now go..."

The man hurried out, stopping at a computer long enough to initiate the lock-down protocol before hurrying past the others. "Everyone out," he called to them as he passed. "C66! C66!"

Having no idea what that meant, Soraya stood, blinking in confusion. "Eh?" Besides, where was she, exactly?

The woman who'd helped her into her suit knelt next to her. "Come on. I'll help you carry him out. We've got to clear the building," she offered.

As the alarm sounded, people started scrambling. Gurneys were ushered toward exits by those who remained ambulatory.

Soraya nodded and threw one of the man's arms over her shoulders before lifting.

The woman helped her lift the fallen man and guided them back out. "We'll meet in lot ten. That's the protocol," she told Soraya. "Do you know where that is?"

"No," she said, glancing behind her. "Has Vlad followed?"

"It’s okay," the woman assured her. "I'll show you."


Michael himself was obviously concerned as he began pacing the lobby. "You really think you could.... You know..." <Purify this whole place?> he finished. <How about people? Could you purify this out of them?>

<So...?> Nait prodded Min. The Seraph blinked, and glanced up and down, considering Michael's suggestion. "It would be... I am not certain. That would be a lot for me to attempt, but... You and the others would have to be well outside, first, I imagine. I am not certain how strongly it may affect any of you."

<No, not something physical within the body. An illness is beyond me. I can only change the energy within.> Naitachel pulled Michael with him to an unnoticed corner, to be missed by the mass exodus.

"Come on," a suited man called out to Nait and Michael. "Evacuation protocol has been initiated. Everyone out."

<Min... talk to me,> the Seraph suggested. He glanced at Michael, then the man who was hoping to make them leave. <I cannot lie to this one, but I am not abandoning Radu to this.>

Unquestioningly, Soraya prepared to follow after the woman again, as she had done thus far. "Did Vlad make it out?"

<Uncle has initiated the C66 protocol. Means the contaminant is too widespread to just contain in the labs,> Min answered. <So anyone who got beyond the first clean room without a suit is likely already infected.>

To satisfy the one encouraging them to leave, Naitachel nudged Michael to come with him, and pretended to head towards the door. As soon as nobody was noticing, however, he ducked into hiding.

Michael followed suit after Naitachel. "What are we doing, exactly?" he whispered as he watched everyone leave.

<We are staying, simple as that. Though if need be, I shall ask you to step out and attempt to purify the whole place. It risks frying all their hard work and much of the electronics, but that is better than death or plague,> Nait stated determinedly. "Unless you wish to leave?" Nait added softly, understanding Michael's nervousness. <Are you all clearing out as well?> Nait asked Min.

"They're saying it's going to be a lockdown. I don't know if I could get out after the countdown stops," Michael answered Naitachel.


"He should be right behind us," the woman answered. "He was carrying a couple of lab assistants out last I saw."

Soraya glanced behind her again, frowning. "I do not see him," she said lamely, concernedly.

Vlad had a man tossed over each shoulder and hurried toward the exit, determined to get them to safety. He dashed out, set them down on the grassy intercession lot ten, then hurried back as the count wound down.

"Fifteen... fourteen..." the computer voice bleated tonelessly.

Soraya remained with her apparent helper. "Are we near?"

"Almost there," she answered, nodding toward a large park-like area in the middle of a lot, where wounded, walking or not, were being placed.


"Then perhaps you should go as well," Nait told the young vampire.

<Some are,> Min answered noncommittally. <We need to contain this and still rescue the research if we can.>

Michael looked between Naitachel and the exit, unsure of the proper course of action here. "I... " He wavered.

<Insulate it well,> Nait recommended to Min forebodingly.

<Get out of the building son,> Vlad ordered him. <Now.>

"Go," Nait encouraged Michael. "I shall be safe enough. At worst, I hop to another plane."

Perhaps it was his mother's influence in him, but the fact that two people were telling him to go made Michael want to dig his heels in and stay. "I don't know if I should," he told Naitachel with a hint of stubbornness in his voice. "I might be able to help."

"Ten... nine..." the voice intoned. A second computer voice announced, "Internal lab lockdown completed," even as the primary computer voice continued the countdown. "Six... five..."

Nait nudged Michael firmly. "Go. Find if Soraya is outside as well."

"They are doing all they can, and I can escape--but your parents would be furious if you stay...," Nait reasoned.

Michael grimaced and finally relented, making use of his vampire speed to exit the lobby.

Naitachel leaned his crutches against the wall, waiting... Mentally listening to see if the building was clear yet except for the vampires, searching...


The countdown was not lost on Soraya. "Where is he?" she demanded of the woman, before realization dawned on her. "No!" she said, releasing her side of the man and dashing back toward the building.

The woman caught her arm. "It's too late," she told her, holding her fast. "Internal lockdown is complete. You won't get past the first clean room even if you make it back into the building before the main lockdown's complete."

Other than Naitachel, only four vampires remained within as the final lockdown activated.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:51 am

"Let go of me," Soraya said, yanking her arm out of the woman's grasp. She would have remained and hurled insults at her, several unladylike names springing to mind, but there was no time.

"Three... two... one... lockdown complete," the computer voice confirmed as the locks secured throughout the building.

Soraya made it to the doors a fraction of a second too late as the shutters closed. "NO!" she screamed, banging on them in frustration. "Nononono. Let me in!" she demanded.

<You are safe... That is a relief,> Nait told Soraya. <I shall check on them and keep you informed...>

"Admittance denied," the computer intoned as Naitachel reached the doors to the first clean room. "Lockdown protocols in progress."

"You snake!" Soraya hissed, rounding on the woman.

"You shouldn't have been here at all," the woman answered calmly. "Not according to your spouse. You should have been safely home."

"Yes, of course, well out of your way as well, Sophia. And do you always bow in submission to your interests?" she asked the woman, before clenching her fists and taking several deep breaths.

<I should have been inside,> Soraya argued angrily.

<No, you should not. You are the most human of the family, and this is very dangerous...> Nait told Soraya calmly. <But you might try finding out who placed the dangerous substance in a vent...>

"What exactly do you know about the cause of this?" Soraya asked the woman.

"I know that Wanda Rubidoux fell ill in the hall on her way to the ladies room. Jim Trent went down two minutes later, then all hell broke loose," Sophia answered, sounding tired. "I know I feel like hell and really need to sit down, if you'll excuse me," she added, suddenly unsteady on her feet.

"But how did it start to begin with?" the redhead pressed. "I assume there are several safety protocols in place to prevent this from ever even happening. So how DID it happen?" Soraya sighed and grabbed the woman's arms to help steady her. "Here," she said, unable to be completely unsympathetic as she led her to a nearby bench.

"I'm not sure," Sophia answered, reaching up to remove her bio-hazard helmet, abruptly feeling somewhat claustrophobic. "There's no way it should have been... um..." She lost her train of thought.

<I have a suit,> Soraya countered with Nait. "No way it should have been what?" the redhead prompted as she removed her own bio-hazard helmet.

"Thank you," Sophia murmured as she realized she was seated. "I... what was I saying?"

"What the hell are you doing," a man nearby demanded. "You can't take those off yet!"

Soraya flinched at the man's yell. She had merely been following example. "I... But..." she said, looking at the helmet she now held.

Sophia began to cough, paling to a near ghost white.

Naitachel rested his fingers on the electronic lock, and sighed. "I shall need a vacation after this," he mused aloud, gathering energy to fry it. <A thin piece of plastic between you and death is hardly comforting...> Nait mused to Soraya. He paused, alarmed. <What now?>

"Put it on," the man demanded, hoping it wasn't too late.

It didn't take long for the redhead to realize that not only was her helmet off, but she was now in full contact with the coughing Sophia. "Well, I hardly think it will help now," she told the man, paling. "Do you have any medical intervention at the ready?" she asked the man, kneeling next to the afflicted woman, hoping to do what she could before she herself became ill. <Nothing. How are our vampires?> she asked Naitachel. She knew she likely didn't have very long, given how quickly the others seemed to be afflicted.

The man reached into his satchel and withdrew a hypodermic, injecting Sophia just as she passed out cold, then turning to Soraya as he withdrew another. "What the hell were you thinking, Mrs. Prince," the man groaned, injecting her without further preamble.

Soraya could already feel her pulse begin to quicken and her thoughts were becoming less focused. "Wow. This is fast," she said with some wonder, shaking her head. <Love you,> she sent quickly to Vlad. All there seemed to be to do now was wait and see. Judging from what was happening to the others, whatever the needle had to offer was in no way a full-proof way of fighting this, but merely a crapshoot.

<Oh hell.... Mom...> Michael sent to both Naitachel and the vampires within when he realized what was happening.

Soraya did her best, then to focus on someone, anyone inside the building. She touched Naitachel's mind, but was unable to remain with him much as she felt herself fading. Her connection to Vlad was stronger, though he felt further away, but again, this was a fading thing, and she started losing him quickly. Besides, all she could find was chaos.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:52 am

The vampires proceeded to gather cultures, initiate cleanout protocols and salvage what they could, praying that they'd be able to do enough. Mircea found it inside a half opened air vent: the broken vial that had once housed the deadly contaminant.

Satisfied, the Seraph left his crutches there and started to walk towards the four in question, tail swishing the back of his cape-robe as he took up his normal strides, all pretense of debility gone and fueled by adrenaline and purpose. "Now, now," Nait stated softly. "I never was the greatest fan of electronic technology..." <Min, update me before I fry something, please.. I have had two glasses of Champaign and a trying night, I fear, so I am not my most patient self tonight...>

<Looks deliberate,> Min answered. <Someone released the contaminate in an air vent.>

<That sounds easy enough for me to solve on your behalf,> Nait answered. "I am sorry," Nait told the computer. "However, I needs must pass." He sent in a tendril of his own energy and heard the lock click open.

Radu found a counteragent, and released it into the same vent as Mircea bagged the original, coughing again into his sleeve, frowning at the tar-black specks that appeared there.

Within the labs, Mircea went down and Radu began to cough harder. <Nait, stay out. I'm not sure that even you're immune to this.>

<I am busy, unfortunately, so I am heading deeper... Heavens...> Nait answered Michael, beginning to run. <Then tell me where your cure is, because I am already within and your security is already toast,> Nait told Radu firmly. <And I hope to reach you in time to actually use it!> Hoping to stave off any argument, he concluded, <Besides... who else is available to rescue you four?>

Radu was on his way to the lab where the cure was contained with his gait faltered. He leaned against the wall, coughing painfully. <Lab four... blue cabinet... third drawer... the vial...> He began to cough harder still, his mind becoming less focused.

Now that they knew for certain what the contaminant was, they could administer a proper antidote, if only they could get it to them in time.

The Seraph dashed up to the labs, long legs eating the distance in leaps and bounds. <Next time, my love, do choose a foe more your own size?> Nait teased. <Radu, try to stay with me... And how much of it...? One mark, two...?> he asked as he crashed into the next locked door. As the computer droned on, the irritated Seraph snapped, "I know, I know... goodbye!" And set a hand firmly on the lock, sending his power to fry it as well. Then he was dashing again...

Min was struggling to tend to Mircea when he began to cough while Vlad finished effecting the cleanup of the contaminant within the air systems, then sat heavily upon the floor, feeling somewhat dazed.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:53 am

Michael wanted to run to his mother, but he knew that it was a poor choice to do so - it seemed even vampires could catch this, and he hardly wanted to compound the problem. <Hang in there, Mom,> he encouraged helplessly.

<Michael!> Nait called. <Find out what the plan was for if any of us need hospitalization, and get that acting! We cannot have any of us fall into the wrong facilities...!> He hadn't noted Soraya faltering at that moment, but was thinking to the trapped four.

Michael watched his mother anxiously a few more moments before he moved to comply, dialing several family contacts he knew were to be used in these situations.

Soraya coughed. Her body jolted, and that effectively cut off whatever strained link she had managed to maintain with Vlad. She felt terrible.

Again, Soraya coughed, a sound Michael struggled to ignore as he continued to make arrangements.

The man in the biohazard suit knelt beside her, trying to make her more comfortable. "Come on, Mrs. P. Hang on, okay? Helps on the way."

Soraya made a sound between a squeal and a mewl as she laid on the ground, not caring where she was.

"Sophie!" someone called in the distance. "How… she was suited."

"Cracked rebreather," someone else answered, showing where the breach occurred.

"Besides," someone else chimed in, "who knows how much of the whatever-it-is we all breathed before we were warned. We could all be ticking time bombs," the voice rose to a near hysterical pitch.

"Allison, stop," the first man ordered.

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Post  Prince on Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:58 am

<Nait, is uncle Radu with you?> Min asked, then began coughing harder.

<No, Min... I think I am nearly where he was... What is the dosage, can you tell me? He was unable to...> Naitachel paused to look down the correct hall...

<Green labeled vials. Ten CC's per person,> Min passed along the answer from Vlad.

Radu lay in a crumpled heap at the end of the hall, out cold.

Pausing, Naitachel bent to gently touch a hand to his mate's brow, feeling a thrill of fear--the fear of losing the one closest to him. Gathering his resolve, he straightened and dashed on towards the lab labeled number "Four", the blue cabinet immediately noticeable... <I found him, Min,> he stated softly, with a calm he did not feel otherwise. <Keep awake as much as you can...> He kept telling himself that even if the vampires were sick, they would revive afterwards. Hungry, but not the worse for wear. In theory, at least. But in theory, vampires weren’t supposed to get sick, either.

Min failed to answer.

The Seraph skidded to a halt at the correct cabinet, opening the third drawer as instructed, and grabbed the vial. Casting about, he looked for syringes, recalling seeing Mircea fill them before and praying he would do this right. Finding some in another drawer, Nait grabbed one and filled it to the tenth mark, then hurried out the door, dashing over to Radu. "Radu... Do not force me to follow you there... That is not where we belong as of yet," he growled as he knelt beside the fallen man and jabbed him with the full syringe. Nait could only hope that the arm was the best place to do so. He had no time to yank anyone's pants to jab them in the buttocks as he had heard about during World War II.

Radu coughed weakly, but didn't wake. Still, it was a sign of life, such as it was, that hadn't been present before.

Shifting his mate to lie flat on the floor, hopefully a more comfortable position, Naitachel scrambled back to his feet and dashed back towards where he'd felt the others earlier. He skidded into the room, pausing at the door to fill a second syringe before tossing the first empty one aside. <Who is next...?>

Within the room, three vampires lay prone. Min lay half across Mircea. Vlad was in the farthest corner of the room.

Naitachel shook his head, grimacing, and knelt beside the nearest, Min, trying to find a way past the suit. <By the blazing fires... and heaven's mercy... Give me the strength and speed to succeed here...!> Frustrated, Nait winced. "Forgive me, but this will hurt later..." With that, he jabbed the needle fiercely into the arm of the suit, driving it through the plastic and into flesh to disgorge the contents. Tossing it away, he filled another and moved on to Mircea beneath.

Within a few moments, Min groaned and Mircea coughed and rolled to his side.

Then Nait bounded over to Vlad, to jab him as well. The doses administered, the Seraph looked around, trying to think of what to do next as he set the vial and last syringe down on a table. On hearing Min groan, he moved to help with the helmet. <Anyone awake... I swear, do not make me have to follow you across planes... I am not so practiced at retrieving souls as before my shattering...> The Seraph reached out to check on Soraya, and winced. <You as well?!>

Any answer Soraya could have given the seraph was nothing more than an incoherent jumble before she lost consciousness completely.

Vlad slowly blinked and opened his eyes, closing them again quickly against the harsh seeming light.

Min set up, wavering despite his best efforts. "Need to..." he began, trying to stand.

"Min, if you do not simply tell me what you need, rather than attempt it yourself, I shall be tempted to sit on you," Nait threatened.

"Humans..." Min answered hoarsely. "Infected..."

The Seraph prodded Min's shoulder to poke him back towards the ground. "Yes, and so are you. Solve your own illness first, lest you only add to the problem." <Radu, are you awake?>

A soft groan answered first, before Radu's voice came to him with a weak affirmative.

Min made to try to stand again. "We need to..." he began again. "No... they... they need... the antidote... don't they?" Had they already received it?

<Good...> The Seraph paused, and added, <Now are you glad for assistance?> he teased mischievously. "What is the antidote?" Nait asked. "We can ask Michael outside if that is what they are receiving..."

"The vial in the blue cabinet," Min answered. "The green labeled vials..."

"No," Mircea corrected. "Red label for humans."

Naitachel gave Min a bit of a push to lie down again. "I gave that to you, Mircea, Vlad, and Radu, yes. Red I did not touch."

"Right..." Min cringed at his mistake. "Sorry... red label..."

"I'll get it," Vlad suggested, making to rise.

<Dad?> Michael called, finally feeling movement from at least one of his parents. Relief was evident in his tone, as was strain. <You okay?>

"I do recommend that next time the lot of you take on foes more your own size, as these are not kindly playmates," Nait sighed. "You are lucky I was so stubborn." He moved to push Vlad back down. "I shall get them. You finish gaining the strength so as to fool those below."

<How are they?> Michael asked Naitachel.

<We're fine,> Vlad lied. <Why aren't you at home?> His mental voice, however, sounded as weak as he felt.

<I reached them in time... but they are still not thinking clearly. Please encourage them to stay still for the moment,> Nait told Michael. <They need time to recover.>

<I came with Mom and the others,>
Michael answered Vlad sheepishly. <Maybe, but Mom needs help,> he countered Nait. <She's out cold and looking pretty terrible. This is bad. What do I do?>

The Seraph rose to head back to the fourth lab again... and shot a firm look at the three behind him. "Stay here, lest I need sing you to sleep. You need a few minutes more, at least."

<There are others out here who are in bad shape, too. And... a couple who didn't make it,> Michael urged him.

At that news, Vlad forced himself onto his feet in spite of Naitachel's warning, stumbling weakly toward lab four. <Coming, son...>

Radu'd been working his way toward the lab while Nait was in with his kin. He'd made it as far as the hall again with the antidote before his strength threatened to give out.

<Try to hang onto their minds. We shall sort this through,> Nait reassured Michael. He held up a hand to forestall Vlad. "Sit. Down. By the time I get the supplies for you, you shall be better for heading below. Do not be foolish." Sensing Radu, he turned and headed out for him swiftly, immediately moving to lend a shoulder. "Heavens... Why ever did you play with such fire?"

Radu felt nauseated... a feeling he hadn't experienced in so long it was almost unrecognizable to him. "Bio-agent isn't ours. Cure is. We were..." He wavered, blinking dizzily.

<I've tried, it's not doing much when they're already out cold,> Michael answered, lost as to what else he could do. <Just hurry out, would you?> he spurred the seraph on. <I can come get it, if you open the place,> Michael suggested anxiously.

<No you may not,> Nait told Michael. <You may catch this. I am trying as fast as I may, but I may have to run it down to a window, and purify the substance to boot.>

Michael cringed as he felt yet another mind slip away into unconsciousness.

Naitachel grimaced. "Radu, stay with me. The humans need the cure, and I needs must run it down to Michael. Tell me what need be done!"

Radu swallowed hard, then pressed the vials into Nait's hand. "Get it to them..." he whispered, leaning back against the wall. "5 cc's each... sickest first."

Nait nodded, and paused to Purify himself before collecting the vials. "Now sit. I shall return promptly." With a flick of his tail, the Seraph was leaping down the halls and through the building with the agility of a deer. <Michael, meet me... mmm... by the west exit. Hurry now. And insist on 5ccs, sickest first. Give what excuses you must...>

Michael didn't ask questions. He moved quickly, quickly enough that he avoided detection by anyone who would have barred his way. <I’m here,> he said when he reached the proper area.

Few remained standing...

Naitachel dashed up to the west exit's emergency door, and grimaced as he was forced to pause. Setting tail-tip to the lock, he fried it, then shouldered it open a crack. "Here," he whispered breathlessly. "Pass it to them and try not to catch this yourself! Your own cure is different."

Michael grabbed the vials and glanced at Naitachel, eyes wide. "I'll do my best. I don't know how well the little critters, whatever they are, will listen when I tell them I don't want them, though," he said wryly, before dashing off again. Without waiting, he made his way to Sophia and his mothers' side. "I need a syringe!" he informed the nearest medical personnel.

Ambulances could be heard in the distance, dispatched by Dragon Industries own private hospital.

Naitachel let the door close, and let out a breath of relief, slumping slightly as fatigue started to break past his adrenaline. Turning, he started back to the others, aiming to find Radu so he could at least help him over to Min, Vlad, and Mircea. <Have you somewhere you might decontaminate? Help is arriving...>

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